“DETERMINED TO ERECT A CHURCH”
A November 16, 1905 headline in the Evansville Review read, "Determined to Erect A Church." According to the
article, church authorities required a new congregation to acquire two-thirds of the cost of the lot and building
before permission would be granted for a new congregation to be started.
The beginning of a new church congregation in Evansville was noticed by the local residents and headlined in the
newspapers. To gain support for the new church, the small group of families that organized Evansville’s St. Paul
Catholic Church was also anxious to spread the news that there would soon be a new congregation in the city.
Louis Schmidley, manager of the Pioneer Drug Store, Joe Bodenberger, John Hendricks and Dan Finnane were
some of the leaders urging the Milwaukee Archdiocese to open a new parish in Evansville. When Schmidley
resigned his position at the Drug Store and accepted a position in Minneapolis just months before the new church
was complete, the others carried on the work.
The organizers were also generous with support for the new church. Dan Finnane and his wife contributed $500
within an eight month period towards the church building. Chris Ryan, John McDermott, Walter and Martin Croak,
Nick and Ed Tierney, Matt Farrell, and John Collins, all Evansville and Albany area farmers, were also listed among
Not everyone was happy about the new church. St. Michael's Catholic church, located in Porter township on
Caledonia Road, was served by the Edgerton priest, Father James E. Harlan, and he objected strongly to the new
organization. He was afraid that a new congregation would take members and financial support away from St.
Some of the early members were affiliated with other area churches. Daniel and Nellie Dunphy Finnane were
married at St. Rose in Brodhead on February 17, 1896. The Finnanes had been attending St. Rose in Brodhead.
The Croak and the Dunphy families were leaders in the Albany parish. Father Richard Smith, of St. Patrick in
Albany, wanted these families to stay with the Albany congregation.
There were also churches in Dayton, Oregon, and Janesville that had members living in the Evansville area. If
these priests protested the start of the new church, their views did not receive public notice.
Evansville's supporters viewed the new organization quite differently than the neighboring priests. They expected
the new church to be a boon to the city. The new congregation was expected to attract many new families to the
area. Evansville residents and businessmen also supported the church financially, including the local veterinarian,
Dr. C. S. Ware, Fred H. Winston, Charles J. Pearsall, Dr. C. H. Snashall, Meyers Brothers Lumberyard, Libby
Brothers, undertaker and furniture dealer W. F. Biglow, and Fish, Lee and Fish, local real estate agents.
INCORPORATION OF ST PAUL’S CONGREGATION
On the 24th of February 1906, the incorporation papers for St. Paul’s Congregation were drawn up by Evansville
attorney Robert M. Richmond. Archbishop Sebastian G. Messmer of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee gave his
permission for the new congregation to be formed. He appointed Father James A. Condon as the pastor of the
Two laymen were chosen to serve as church trustees, Joseph Bodenberger, secretary and treasurer and Daniel F.
Finnane. According to the incorporation papers, the laymen were to serve two-year terms and their successors
were to be “practical communicants of the congregation.” When the terms of the two trustees ended, St. Paul’s
Congregation was to choose their successors.
For many years, Finnane and Bodenberger were reappointed as trustees.The Evansville Tribune’s March 13,
1906 issue announced the beginning of a fund drive. “A new church society has been organized in this city. The
congregation of St. Paul has been formed by the Catholics of Evansville and vicinity. A subscription list has been
circulated among their people with good results, and the committee intends purchasing a site for a building as
soon as a suitable location can be decided on. A hall may be rented for the present and services conducted by a
priest supplied from Janesville or Madison.”
On April 20, 1906, the congregation purchased land on the southeast corner of First Street and Garfield Avenue
from Mrs. James Montgomery. She accepted payment of $825.
“Building will probably commence sometime this summer and it is expected that a fine edifice will be erected. This
will no doubt result in bringing a large number of new families to Evansville,” the Badger newspaper predicted.
In addition to his Evansville parish, Father Condon was also Chaplain of the Edgewood Academy and lived in
Madison. When he was not engaged in his other duties, Condon traveled to Evansville to canvas the city and
countryside to find potential members for the church and accepted any donations that people wanted to make. He
also visited the sick members of his congregation.
An April 13, 1906 Enterprise newspaper report said that Father Condon visited Michael Finneran who had been
kicked by a horse. Within a few days after his visit with Finneran, the new priest and his new parishioners
celebrated the congregation’s first mass in the Evansville City Hall.
FIRST MASS SAID IN EVANSVILLE
On Sunday April 22, 1906, more than two months after the incorporation papers were signed,. 100 parishioners
attended the first Mass. Those attending the services began paying pew rent immediately. Large donations of
$100 or more were made throughout the summer by Bart Foley, Thomas Croak, John McDermott, Chris Ryan, W.
H. Giblin, Walter Croak, and John Collins. The money was needed for the new building.
Father Condon announced that the building plans, drawn by William Meggott, were completed. The priest and
trustees, acting as the building committee, advertised for building contractors to submit proposals for the new
During the construction project, Meggott was forced to change the building plans several times and was finally paid
on December 21, 1906. He received $75 for the drawings.
An Evansville newspaper announced that the church was seeking bids for the construction. “Plans and
specifications for the new Catholic church to be built in Evansville, Wis., can be seen at the Pioneer Drug Store,
where bids will be received on or before June 15, 1906, for the entire work.”
Because of the construction of the new church, the congregation was in debt and even though the parishioners
and the community had been generous, more money was needed. Father Condon told a local newspaper
reporter that he was having great success in raising funds for the construction of the new church.
On June 15, 1906, the bids for the new church were opened and the building committee gave the contract to J. A.
Denning of Janesville in the amount of $5,750. Denning’s contract required that the building be started by August
15, 1906 and finished by March 1, 1907. The building was to be “completed and delivered free from all liens of
mechanics or others.”
Archbishop Messmer approved the contract and Father James A. Condon, Joseph M. Bodenberger and Daniel F.
Finnane signed the agreement on behalf of St. Paul’s Congregation. The fund raising for the project continued.
By the end of December 1906, there were 145 entries in the account books for individual payments.
The largest donation given at one time was two hundred dollars from Daniel F. Finnane. Finnane and his wife
were listed several times in the account books, usually giving $100 on each occasion. Martin Croak gave $150,
the next largest single contribution. Most gifts were in smaller amounts.
It took most of the summer for the preparation of the building specifications and advertising. The work of the
building project progressed under the leadership of the local congregation. Contractor Denning's workers began
the excavation in August.
The basement was completed when the cornerstone ceremony took place on September 23, 1906. The
Archbishop was invited along with Father J. M. Naughton, the pastor at St. Raphael’s and the speaker for the
event. The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad put on a special car from Beloit to Evansville to accommodate the
visitors from parishes in that city.
The ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone attracted a great crowd of people. The priests and the Archbishop
performed the Mass in the Evansville City Hall. Then a procession of the Archbishop, priests, parishioners and
townspeople walked to the church site, where a crowd of 2,000 people gathered to watch the visiting priests raise a
huge wooden cross and bless the cornerstone donated by F. M. Schlimgen, owner of a monument company in
The newspaper gave credit to four men who had worked very hard to get the new church congregation and
building started. Daniel F. Finnane, Joseph M. Bodenberger, John Collins and John Hendricks were praised for
their work as “the moving forces in the beginning of the new church.”
Father Condon sent a greeting, as a serious illness prevented him from attending the ceremony. There was some
speculation that St. Paul’s would become the responsibility of the pastor from St. Michael’s in Porter township.
However, the Archbishop appointed Father Eugene McCarthy to the Evansville parish and the newly appointed
priest, was on hand for the cornerstone laying ceremony. He “made a most favorable impression upon those who
met him for the first time, as he has a fine scholarly face,” the Evansville Enterprise reported.
On September 1, 1906, Father Eugene J. McCarthy, took on the duties of the parish priest at St. Paul. Father
McCarthy was a Janesville native.
Father McCarthy supervised the completion of the church. Since there was no rectory, McCarthy and his mother
rented a house on West Church Street.
Fund raising activities that included the community were an important part of church activities, usually organized
and staffed by the women. The congregation did not wait until they had a building before starting the fundraising
events. In November 1906, the church women gave the first annual Thanksgiving dinner and dance. They rented
two local halls, one for dancing and one for the dinner. A dance was held in Magee's Hall on East Main Street and
the dinner in Baker's Hall on the corner of East Main and Maple Street.
The following February, the ladies held a three-day bazaar at Magee's Hall. Booths were placed around the
outside walls and women brought their best baked goods, candy, and fancy work to sell. The women also
prepared a warm lunch and music was provided by Frank Broughton’s graphophone, a phonograph invented by
Alexander Graham Bell and Charles S. Tainter.
A popular speaker, Father M. J. Ward of Beloit, gave one of his famous temperance lectures in the evening. A
raffle was held at the end of each day. The event netted about eight hundred dollars, according to a news item in
the Review. It was considered a success by all.
The church building went up rapidly. Janesville sand lime brick was used in the construction of the building. The
roof was in place by early November so that the contractor could work on the interior during the winter. Theodore
F. Shurrum plastered the interior of the church and in mid-December 1906, the carpenters were beginning the
The dedication of the new church and the first confirmation ceremonies were held on Sunday, May 12, 1907.
Once again His Grace, Archbishop Sebastion G. Messmer came from Milwaukee to perform the ceremony. The
Knights of Columbus organizations from Janesville and Beloit and the Total Abstinence Society of Edgerton, also
It was estimated that more than 1,000 people attended the service, with half of the crowd standing outside the
church during the entire ceremony. Father John. F. Fitzgerald and Father Eugene J. McCarthy assisted the
Archbishop at the Dedication Mass. The choir of St. Thomas in Beloit provided the music, as a choir had not been
formed at St. Paul. The choir sang the Mass by J. Stein.
Archbishop Messmer’s sermon praised the organizers of the church who had “labored so hard in their most
generous financial support.” He also praised the people of Evansville for their generous support of the new church
and congregation. He remarked that he hoped a good parsonage would be built or purchased in the near future.
The exterior and interior of the church was described in the Evansville Enterprise. "The church is substantially
erected of white brick at a cost of $10,000; the interior is supported by artistically wrought hardwood rafters and
has white walls and ceiling. Seats are of light hardwood. The altar and railing are white and with candles, and
decorations of green foliage and dozens of white, pink and red carnations, made a very handsome appearance. A
balcony at the rear will be occupied by the choir. The seating capacity of the church is about 300."
The first baptism was held on April 28, 1907. Mary Montgomery, daughter of John and Gertrude Montgomery, was
baptized by Father Eugene McCarthy.
Those confirmed on the day of the dedication included one of the first trustees. There were five in the first
confirmation class. The Archbishop confirmed Joseph Mark Bodenberger, the church’s trustee, (sponsor Patrick
Reilly), Francis Joseph Montgomery (sponsor Martin Croak), Leo Paul Murray (sponsor John Murray), Anastasia
Helen Reilly (sponsor Ida Nichols), and Margaret Mary Schliem (sponsor Mrs. A. Blunt.)
Following the Archbishop’s suggestion at the dedication of the church, St. Paul’s Congregation decided to build a
rectory. Although the rent for the house on West Church Street was only $11.50, the congregation built a house
on church property on North First Street, just south of the church. In September 1907, the builders broke ground
for the rectory. The carpenter-contractor was Arford Jones.
Father McCarthy and his mother moved into his new house on December 26, 1907. They were there only a few
months. In April 1908, Father Eugene McCarthy left St. Paul’s .
The Evansville Enterprise of April 17, 1908 stated that Father McCarthy was to be put in charge of a large parish
in Beloit that was building a new church. He was replaced by the young and enthusiastic Father John H. Fitzgerald.
The new priest was an athlete and he advised the parishioners to organize a picnic and invite the public for food
and games of skill. In the summer of 1908, the church held their first community picnic.
FIRST PICNIC AND FIELD DAY
The first Picnic and Field Day was held in June following the planting of the spring crops. Everyone was ready for
a celebration. Merchants closed their stores and Evansville's largest employer, Baker Manufacturing Company,
declared a holiday so that employees could attend the festivities at the Evansville Fairgrounds.
More than twenty-five hundred people attended the event. The day began at 9:30 a.m. with a ball game between
Oregon and Footville. Oregon won the game and was scheduled to play the Evansville High School ball team in
The morning ball game was followed by foot races and pole vaulting. Frank Mabie took first prize in the pole
vaulting. Alex Richardson won the 1/2 mile foot race, with Frank Mabie coming in a close second.
At noon, the women of St. Paul served a barbecue dinner for twenty-five cents. The mid-day festivities also
included a tug-of-war between Footville and Evansville.
Senator Robert M. LaFollette was scheduled as the speaker for the day. However, LaFollette had given more than
100 speeches in a short period of time and became ill. Congressman H. A. Cooper was invited to speak in place of
LaFollette. The Evansville Military Band furnished music throughout the day. Automobile races and horse races
were held in the afternoon, followed by the baseball game between Oregon and Evansville’s High School team.
The afternoon baseball game was into four innings when the umpire made a decision that the Oregon team did not
like. In protest, the Oregon team picked up their bats and left the field. The organizers of the event persuaded the
Footville team to step in and finish the game. The Footville team agreed and went on to win the game.
The day ended with a dance at the Magee Opera House and another dinner at Baker's Hall served by the ladies of
St. Paul's. The event was considered a festive day and a financial success. The large attendance encouraged
the church members to make the picnic an annual event.
The women of the church organized the St. Elizabeth Society. Elizabeth Collins was the first president. The
women were excellent fundraisers. They held card parties, bazaars, Thanksgiving dances, box socials and bake
sales. Most of the food was donated by the parishioners and the income was added to the pew rent and
collections to support the parish.
The church did not have a hall or special meeting room, so community fundraising activities often took place in the
homes of parishioners. Card players gathered at the invitation of the ladies of St. Paul and paid a small fee to
enjoy an afternoon or evening of card playing. Cinch was the favorite card game and the parties were usually held
in the winter time. When the games were finished, a lunch was served to all who braved the weather and attended.
CHRISTMAS AND MIDNIGHT MASS
In 1908, Christmas Day was on a Friday, and as the day was normally a day of abstinence, Father Fitzgerald
placed a notice in the Evansville Review that Christmas was an exception. Father Fitzgerald reminded his
parishioners, and any other interested parties: “a dispensation has been general for many centuries allowing
Catholics to eat meat on Christmas when it falls upon Friday.”
Many Evansville people were curious about the Christmas Eve service. Father Fitzgerald issued a statement
about the Midnight Mass. “This is the only day in the year when Mass is allowed to be celebrated before dawn and
the Catholics of Evansville are going to avail themselves of the opportunity. Mass is permitted on Christmas on
account of the ancient tradition which says that our Savior was born at midnight.” The service was a High Mass.
Mary Bodenberger sang special music.
The first Catholic Mission was held in Evansville in October 1909. Two Jesuit priests, Father David Johnson and
Father O’Malley conducted the week-long Mission. There were early morning and evening Masses and devotions.
The first Mass was said at 5:30 a.m. and another at 9 a.m. A majority of those attending the morning services
were women. Subjects of the priests’ lectures were “The Greatest Attribute of God,” “Can Man Forgive Sin,” “The
Great Supper of God,” “Shoals of Life,” and “Beauty and Destiny of the Soul.”
The visiting priests led the Rosary, gave special lectures, and ended each day with the Benediction. The
Evansville newspapers reported that “Crowded houses are greeting the Jesuit Missionaries every evening at St.
Paul’s church.” The two priests were described as eloquent and extremely entertaining speakers.
Maintenance on the new church began soon after it was built. In the spring of 1910, St. Paul’s church needed
repair. Elmer Libby, a local carpenter, assessed the work and suggested that new coping would prevent leaks.
Father Fitzgerald supervised the work and the congregation continued its fund raising program to pay for the
The families of the church worked hard during the year to supplement the funds received in each Sunday’s
offering. Card parties were held every Thursday in January and February. The homes of Herman Tucker, Joe
Bodenberger, Dan Knouse, the rectory and rooms at one of the hotels, the Central House, were mentioned in the
advertisements for the card parties. Refreshments followed the card playing. The fundraisers were described as
well attended and a “jolly time for all.”
Several times a year, the women of the parish organized bazaars, quilt raffles, bake sales, box socials and
dances. Irish lace, art needlework, and “plain and fancy” articles were for sale at the bazaars. After each
fundraising activity a news release was sent to the local papers describing the festivities and noting their success.
After each Irish Picnic the organizers thanked Evansville merchants who closed their places of business so their
workers could attend. A newspaper described the events: “Picnic days are reunion days. Former residents old
friends and neighbors, citizens and visitors were all here in large number to make the event a great success.”
St Paul’s priest, Father Fitzgerald was one of the first Evansville clergymen to own a car. In 1910, the local
newspaper reported that Fitzgerald ordered an Overland car. The automobile was purchased through a catalog
from the Willys-Overland Company in Toledo, Ohio. Fitzgerald paid $1,000 for the car and the price included “a
magneto and all the lamp equipment needed for nighttime driving.”
Father Fitzgerald was a popular speaker at other parishes. He was asked to give the sermon at the laying of the
cornerstone for the Belleville Catholic Church in 1910. He used as his text, the verse from Exodus 20. Verse 2. “I
am the Lord Thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.”
In addition to the Evansville church, Father Fitzgerald was also assigned to the parish in Footville where he helped
the congregation build a new church. When Evansville’s priest served St. Augustine, the Footville parish paid St.
Paul’s for a portion of the rectory expenses.
In 1910, The Illustrated Prospective, an Evansville Review promotional publication, gave a full column to the new
church. The congregation of St. Paul was described as thriving and growing. “New members are settling in its
midst, attracted hither by the church in which they can worship according to their belief." This was good news for
those who had predicted the new church would bring new residents to Evansville.
Although he had been a popular priest, Fitzgerald decided to continue his education and resigned to attend
Catholic University in Washington D. C. On July 23, 1911, Father Fitzgerald preached his farewell sermon at St.
Paul’s. The congregation gave Fitzgerald gifts of money and wished him well at a farewell reception that was also
a welcoming party for the new priest.
The day following Father Fitzgerald’s last sermon, Father William McDermott took charge of the parish. The
Evansville Review described McDermott as “a talented young man.” McDermott settled into his new parish and
also became active in the community.
The fundraising activities of the annual picnic increased under Father McDermott's administration. In 1911, the
Irish Picnic organizers planned one of the most spectacular celebrations to date. Motorcycle races, ball games,
sack, potato and three-legged races were held on the Fair Grounds.
Father Ward of Beloit returned to Evansville and gave his famous temperance speech and then the crowd
dispersed for the evening meal and grand ball at the Magee Opera House. Again, the newspapers reported more
than 2,000 people attended the picnic, dinner and dance.
The parish also hosted a Thanksgiving supper and ball. The women prepared the meal and the men had the
responsibility of keeping order as the floor committee for the ball. In 1911, Dan Drew, James Croak, Pat Cusic,
William Finneran, Peter Garry, Arthur Blunt, and John Collins acted as the floor committee. The men were chosen
for the floor committee because they were well known and respected in the area.
1913 ADDITION TO ST PAUL’S
Successful fundraising activities and the generosity of the congregation allowed the church to build an addition. In
June 1913, the Congregation of St. Paul borrowed $3,500 from the Catholic Knights of Wisconsin to finance the
addition. The Catholic Knights held a mortgage on the property for this amount and over the next few years the
church account books record regular payments to the Knights.
Robert Hankinson, who lived in the house just east of the church, was hired to do the carpentry work. A 14’ x 42’
addition was constructed on the south end of the church and included a new sanctuary and sacristies.
The interior of the church was frescoed and a new hand-carved altar of Gothic design was installed. The new
altar was decorated in white and gold. Under the altar was a 4 x 11 foot panel of the Da Vinci's Last Supper.
The renovation included the replacement of the gas lamps with electric lights and Father McDermott wired the
building and installed the new fixtures. To call the parishioners to worship, a six-hundred-pound bell was
purchased from the Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York and installed in the belfry.
The remodeled church was rededicated in August 1913. Once again the Archbishop of the Milwaukee
Archdiocese came to Evansville along with priests from Oregon, Milwaukee, Belleville and Beloit.
Miss Margaret Finnane was the organist for the occasion and soloists from Milwaukee sang the Mass. The
evening service featured Father M. J. Ward, of Beloit. The Evansville Review said of Father Ward, “no pulpit
orator is better known in these parts. He gave one of his eloquent and powerful sermons; an effort that charmed
and delighted the large audience that listened to him.” At the end of the Mass, Father Ward sang the Benediction.
“The members of St. Paul’s now have one of the most modern and up-to-date equipped churches in the state,”
one local newspaper reporter said. “Much credit is due to St. Paul’s congregation for the work that has been done
in adding another beautiful building to the many that adorn our fair city.”
This was the first of many major remodeling projects. Nearly every time a new priest was assigned to the parish,
there were renovations to the church building or the rectory.
St. Paul’s priest, Father William McDermott, was a man of many talents and a great organizer. He participated in
community drama activities and was one of the actors in two Irish plays held in the Eager Free Public Library hall in
January 1913. The plays had previously been presented at the Abby Theater in Dublin and in Chicago.
Father McDermott, like his predecessor also served St. Augustine at Footville. Since no regularly scheduled trains
could accommodate Father McDermott’s mass schedule, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad provided him with
a handcar to make the Sunday morning trip from the Evansville depot to the Footville depot.
Father McDermott propelled the machine along the tracks by pumping the handle of the handcar. Many years
after he left the parish, the tales of McDermott’s handcar transportation continued to be legend.
Priests who substituted for Father McDermott admired his strength and courage. When the weather was bad,
Peter Garry drove Father McDermott in a horse and buggy. Father McDermott also owned an automobile. Rev.
McDermott and his friend, Father Michael Huston were photographed riding in the car. The automobile was parked
on the dirt street in front of the rectory.
NEW PARISH HALL
In 1914, the parish remodeled the church basement into a hall for suppers, card parties and other church
activities. The St. Patrick’s Day supper and card party was the first special occasion to be observed in the
remodeled space. “Caed Mile Failte,” an Irish greeting meaning many thousand welcomes, invited many to the
parish hall through the years.
The news release for the St. Patrick’s Day supper went into the Evansville Review: “On this occasion the ladies of
the congregation will serve one of their deservedly popular 25-cent suppers. After supper, cinch and “500” will be
played for prizes. A cordial invitation is extended to all.” A large crowd took advantage of the opportunity to see
the new hall, eat, visit with friends and neighbors, and play cards.
HOLY WEEK SERVICES
Holy week in 1914 began with the blessing of the palms on Palm Sunday. The theme of the homily was “The
Christian Young Man.” On Good Friday, there was an evening service and Father McDermott’s homily was “The
Responsibility of Intemperance.”
A large crowd attended the Mass on Easter Sunday in 1914. The altar was decorated with Easter lilies and palms.
A glorious High Mass was sung by the choir and soloists under the direction of a Miss Hames from Milwaukee.
A week-long Novena was held prior to the celebration of the parish’s Patron Saint’s Day in 1915. The observance
began on Sunday January 18, 1915. Parishioners attended daily Mass and on Monday January 25, a solemn High
Mass was celebrated. Rev. J. E. Harlin of Edgerton was the principal celebrant and Father McDermott acted as
master of ceremonies.
Father William Mahoney gave the homily. Father Mahoney was described as a masterful orator. His topic was the
life and works of St. Paul. The church was beautifully decorated with flowers and St. Paul’s choir sang under the
direction of Miss Gunnis, a choir director from Milwaukee. The recorder of the day’s events said, “In its perfection,
all went to mark the day as one of the great days in the history of St. Paul’s congregation.”
ST ELIZABETH’S SOCIETY
The women of St. Elizabeth’s Society were divided into groups and each section was expected to earn money to
support the parish. In 1915, the Brooklyn group presented the church with $75 they earned with card parties and
The Annual Report of the Parish in 1917, recorded 40 members in the St. Elizabeth Society. One of parish
members, Mrs. William B. Meggott, donated a cooking stove for the new kitchen. Mrs. Meggott also owned the
Commercial House, a hotel in Evansville, and she often let the church ladies use the hotel dining room for
strawberry festivals and card parties.
WORLD WAR I
When World War I was declared in 1917, Father McDermott became the head of the local Red Cross. Father
McDermott asked church members to canvass the city to inform people about the “meatless, wheatless and
wasteless” days suggested by the United States government. Conservation of resources was critical as the
government had made few preparations for entering the war.
Father McDermott went to local country schools and talked with mother’s clubs and homemaker groups interested
in the work of the Red Cross. He encouraged women to save their fabric scraps, old table linens, and other
material for making pillows, napkins, and handkerchiefs for the soldiers.
During the war, McDermott also helped organize the first Little Theater group in Evansville. He and Miss Miller, a
high school teacher, produced the first high school musical. Proceeds from the performance of "Princess
Chrysanthemum" were divided between the Red Cross and the high school.
In December 1917, Father McDermott headed the Evansville Players production of “All The Comforts of Home.”
The Evansville Review praised the production and the hard work of St. Paul’s priest. “To Father McDermott too
much credit cannot be given, especially as the work was done in the spirit of patriotism and the money raised, in
the neighborhood of a thousand dollars, given to the Red Cross.” The money allowed the Red Cross to purchase
fabric for local women to make warm clothing that was sent to the soldiers in the “camps and trenches.”
Father McDermott was also one of the Four Minute Men. The volunteers were lawyers, businessmen and ministers
who gave four minute patriotic speeches at movie theaters and other public gatherings. The speakers led
community sings to encourage a patriotic spirit, then asked the audience to purchase war bonds and support other
sacrifices made necessary by the war.
After the war ended, McDermott continued as head of the Red Cross. The emphasis of the organization changed
to disaster relief for former soldiers and citizens of the war zone. McDermott headed the Near East Committee, an
organization devoted to the relief of Eastern European countries of Armenia and Syria.
McDermott also served on Evansville’s Rock County Fair Board. In 1924, Father McDermott was elected president
of the Rock County Fair Association.
A PAROCHIAL SCHOOL
The 1920 account books reveal four meetings the parish held to discuss the possibility of establishing a parochial
school in Evansville. There were several reasons that it seemed to be an appropriate time to start a parish
school. The public schools were crowded and members of the congregation were urging the parish leaders to
start a Catholic school.
St. Paul had about sixty families in the congregation. Because of the parish fundraising efforts, the parish was free
Some charter members of the church, including Dan Finnane and Joseph Bodenberger, were listed as supporters
of the a new school. Thomas Keegan, also a supporter of the school, suggested raising the pew rent to finance
the new school. At a special meeting held on June 30, 1920, the pew rent for the members of St. Paul was set at
$12 per year. This was double the previous rate, but only one person at the meeting voted against the proposal.
The school would be called the St. Francis School and funds collected for the school were placed in the St. Francis
School fund at the Bank of Evansville. The Sisters of St. Dominic, of Sinsinawa, agreed to operate the school if the
parish raised sufficient funds.
Father McDermott was so convinced of the benefit of a parochial school that he agreed to an annual salary of
$1,000, rather than the $1,200 the Diocese recommended for priests in cities with a population of less than 1,000.
The congregation was growing. At the annual meeting in January 1921, the congregation voted to have two
Masses each Sunday. At the same meeting, the members voted to purchase a statue of the Sacred Heart with a
monetary gift from Mrs. Lawrence Barrett and new missals using funds donated by the Holy Name Society.
Interest in the parochial school remained strong and in 1922, the parish voted to purchase the A. E. Durner
property for $10,000. The house was east of the church, on Garfield Avenue.
A two-room school was considered for the site. Plans were drawn and bids requested. When the bids for a two-
room school were opened, the lowest bid was $12,000, about $5,000 more than the parish had expected. The
school building plans were postponed. The parish kept the plans, as Father McDermott described in the minutes
of a special meeting on January 29, 1922: “The plans are ready and useable with complete specifications when
needed.” The residence purchased as a school site became the parish rectory. The old rectory on North First
Street was rented or served as a residence for the church custodians.
The faithful continued to contribute to a school fund and parish members held on to dreams of a parochial school.
For many years, a Catholic school was discussed at Parish Council meetings and among the many parishioners
who wanted their children to receive a Catholic education.
The parishioners provided catechism classes by an agreement with the Mercy Sisters from Janesville. The nuns
came on Saturday mornings and members of the congregation volunteered to transport the teachers.
HOLY CROSS CEMETERY
In 1921, the Holy Cross Cemetery Association was formed by St. Paul’s Congregation. Seven acres of land just
north of the Evansville City limits was purchased from C. M. Lund. As one corner of the land touched the city limits,
the Evansville City Council had to give permission for the land to be used as a cemetery. The City Council
approved the land use at a meeting held on February 1, 1921.
Prior to establishing Holy Cross Cemetery, most Evansville area Catholics were buried in Janesville’s Mt. Olivet
Cemetery, St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Albany, St. Michael’s in Porter township and the Calvary Cemetery, also known
as the Croak Cemetery in Magnolia township. Even after the Holy Cross Cemetery was established, members of
St. Paul were buried in other cemeteries.
McDERMOTT ADDRESSES THE PROBLEMS IN RURAL PARISHES
His work in the Evansville church had given Father McDermott insight and experience in the problems of running a
rural parish. In 1924, the “St. Isidore Plow,” a magazine devoted to Catholic farm issues, published an essay by
the Evansville priest.
In the essay, “The Problems of the Rural Parish,” McDermott proposed that the church have fewer parishes and
“abler men in charge.” Father McDermott said that in time, this would bring about a better spirit of cooperation on
the part of parish members and more efficient schools and churches, as well as a deeper spirituality.
On August 7, 1924, Father McDermott left St. Paul to become the principal of the new St. Catherine High School in
Racine. The Evansville community showed its appreciation for Father McDermott. The parish gave him a
monetary gift, prayers and best wishes.
The Evansville Commercial Club hosted a banquet in St. Paul’s basement room. The dinner was served by the
ladies of St. Paul’s, headed by Mrs. Peter Garry. The Evansville band provided music and the dinner speakers
were prominent Evansville businessmen. McDermott was praised for his work in the community, the Rock County
Fair and the Evansville Little Theater.
McDermott replied that he had “simply cooperated with the splendid aggressive and progressive spirit of the
members of the Commercial Club and the businessmen of Evansville.” Father McDermott left St. Paul’s after 13
years of service to assume his new duties in Racine in August 1924.
FATHER DWYER REPLACES FATHER McDERMOTT
Father Sidney J. Dwyer was assigned to replace Father McDermott. Father Dwyer came to Evansville from St. Ann’
s in Stoughton.
St. Paul’s trustees had taken out a bank loan of $2,500. In October 1924, the Trustees borrowed from the school
loan and also used a bequest from the estate of Richard Dallas to reduce the loan. It was a small setback to the
proposed Catholic school in Evansville.
Father Dwyer wrote in the account book his thoughts on the transaction: “this is merely loaned from the school
fund.” Father Dwyer supported building a school and he told the parishioners at the annual meeting in January
1925, “the building was postponed, not dropped.”
It was during Father Dwyer’s service at St. Paul that the parish started using the envelope method of financial
support. Two new trustees, Dr. John Guilfoyle and Steve Putnam, were elected to St. Paul’s Council at the 1925
annual meeting. For many years after they were first elected, Dr. John Guilfoyle served as the parish treasurer
and Putnam was the secretary.
The financial support of the parishioners continued to be supplemented by fundraising activities. When no other
group stepped forward, the people of St. Paul’s sponsored the 1925 Fourth of July celebration in Evansville. The
event was held at the Evansville Fairgrounds. There was horse racing and a food tent operated by the women.
They fed more than 300 people.
WOMEN’S GROUP CHANGES NAME
By 1924, the name of the women’s group had been officially changed from St. Elizabeth’s to St. Mary’s Catholic
Sodality. The officers elected to serve in 1925 were Mrs. Orrin Johnson, President; Mrs. George McGuire, Vice
President; Mrs. Jack Cummings, Secretary; and Mrs. Peter Garry, Treasurer.
The 1926 officers were: President, Mrs. Peter Garry; Vice President, Mrs. George McGuire; Secretary, Mrs. Lyle
Keegan; and Treasurer, Mrs. John Medlar. The women continued their dinners, dances, food sales, card parties
and the Irish Picnic activities to raise funds for church projects.
St. Paul young people organized their own social club in October 1925. James Finnane, Eunice Meggott, Webster
Johnson and Frank Meredith were elected officers of the Nu-me-a-gig Club and their first social gathering was a
Halloween party in the parish hall. Guests were invited to guess the meaning of the new name, but it was never
On September 23, 1926, Archbishop Sebastian. G. Messmer presided over a High Mass and confirmed a large
class of teenagers and adults. Thomas Frusher, James Reilly, Beth Medlar, Ruth Collins, Helen Geary, Helen
Kelly, Hazel Kelly, Genevieve Croak, Alice Finnane, Mildred Bodenberger, Mary Kelly, Doris Medlar, Frances
Popanz, Donald Collins, Paul Reilly, Alan Croak, Frances Kelly, John Barrett, Donald Wissbaum, Morris Moore, Leo
Smith, Theodore Geisler, LeRoy Geisler, Kenneth Lay, Paul Dooley, Michael Finnane, Mary Frusher, Margaret
Frusher, Verne Reilly, Mrs. John McDermott, Mrs. Mark Collins, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Leary and Leo Horan were all
In the late 1920s, the annual picnic moved from the Evansville Fairgrounds to Dan Finnane’s farm north of
Evansville. Father Dwyer gave an explanation for the name of the annual picnic. He claimed it was because the
“Irish have to do all the work, at the Dan Finnane grove.”
Finnane’s Grove formed a natural amphitheater, with a hill sloping back from the stage. Christie Ryan and Dan
Finnane organized the entertainment, including the traditional Irish dancers and a ball game.
The 1926 picnic brought in a profit of $1,078. The 1927 picnic had a smaller crowd than the previous year. The
weather was to blame, according to the organizers. Then the 1928 picnic hit new records for attendance with
1,500 served meals and more than 3,000 people on the grounds.
At the annual meeting in 1928, the members discussed adding a school fund donation to the recommend support
of the parish. The discussion of the weekly donation occupied the majority of the meeting. Two Trustees, William
Giblin and Dr. Guilfoyle, proposed $1 per week from the head of each family. Their motion lost and Mrs. Peter
Garry and Mark Collins supported a motion for a 50 cent donation from each head of household. The motion
carried unanimously. The school fund was added to the pew rent and fuel collection for parish needs.
In 1928, Father Sidney Dwyer was transferred to St. Patrick in Beaver Dam. The Evansville Review noted that
Father Dwyer would be missed in Evansville, “especially by the Lions Club and business men where his jovial ways
have endeared him to all.”
FATHER RAYMOND J. MAHONEY
Father Raymond J. Mahoney became the pastor at Evansville on March 26, 1928. The new priest had established
a reputation as a powerful public speaker. Father Mahoney gave Lenten sermons in Milwaukee, Madison, Beloit,
Racine, Janesville and Monroe. Father Mahoney was also the speaker for the Baccalaureate at Marquette
University in 1928.
It was during Father Mahoney’s term at the parish that a major remodeling of the sanctuary took place. The men
and women of the church were anxious to help fund the remodeling project going on at St. Paul’s. Generous
donations and fund raising events were crucial to the success of the parish plans.
The Irish Picnic topped all other fund raisers for the number of people who participated. The events were well
publicized before and after the date. The picnic of 1929 was described in the local newspapers as a full day of
exciting activities. “Something will be happening every hour of the day with an exceptional program of diversified
attractions including songs, jigs, reels, dances, games, old time fiddling, and oratory.”
A chicken and “Jiggs” dinner was served by the ladies of St. Paul, with assistance from the men and children. The
meal cost 50 cents. Although many people came to see the activities, it was the unusual food that took the most
work and brought in the most money.
A "Jiggs" style dinner included boiled ham, cabbage, steamed potatoes, baked beans and relishes. Jiggs was a
famous cartoon character from “Jiggs and Maggie.” Jiggs was an Irish immigrant and his favorite meal was corned
beef and cabbage.
According to the news reports, more than 3,500 people attended the program and 2,000 dinners were served.
Patriotic speeches and old time songs were the featured entertainment with prizes of money and food. Peter
Olsen, Joe Busby, Ray Covert and Nick Covert were the singers. The dancers included Michael Welch, John
Flood, John Knight, Mrs. Joe Gaveny, Jim Sheridan and Christie Ryan.
The Evansville Review printed a summary of the 1929 Irish Picnic and the people of St. Paul’s thanked those who
attended. The funds raised at the picnic helped pay for an extensive remodeling project.
MAJOR REMODELING 1929
The remodeling included many changes to the interior of the church. The walls were covered with a textured paint
to resemble old stone. The new interior was designed in the English gothic style. The arch above the altar was
also painted to look like stone. Oil paintings for the Angel of Purity and the Angel of Prayer were hung on either
side of the arch.
The dome of the ceiling above the altar was painted in silk damask, with an intricate design in blue, red and gold.
The symbols of the Catholic faith, Alpha and Omega, the monogram of Christ, the monogram of St. Mary, and the
grape and wheat were used in the design.
The altar was changed to a simple gothic style with the same colors used in the dome. The niches on either side
of the altar for the statues of the saints were painted in blue and gold. The walls and ceiling of the church were
painted green, the color of hope.
Walnut stain was used on the woodwork. A blue velvet carpet was put in the sanctuary and wrought iron lights
were hung from the ceiling.
New decorative objects were added to the interior. A green marble holy water font, imported from Italy, was
donated by Ella Meggott and her daughter, Eunice. The holy water font was placed in the vestibule of the church.
New vestments and cope were donated by the Holy Name Society.
A pair of gold vases was donated in memory of the first altar boys of the parish. Cyrus Montgomery drowned in
Lake Leota in 1926 and John Finnane, the son of Daniel and Nellie Finnane, died in 1918. The memorial vases
were set on the altar, on either side of the tabernacle.
Dr. and Mrs. J. P. Guilfoyle donated a life-sized statue of the Little Flower for the sanctuary. Father Mahoney
requested and received a “first class relic” of the Little Flower, from Rome.
In early October 1929, St. Paul’s held a three day Tritium service in honor of St. Therese, the Little Flower. An
invitation was extended to St. Paul members and all non-Catholics to attend the services.
The statue of St. Therese was blessed and the relic was exposed for veneration. Rev. William Russell of Dubuque
conducted the services and delivered the sermons. Each evening service during the Tritium ended with the
In December 1929, an imported crib and 25 figures depicting the first Christmas night in Bethlehem were
purchased for the sanctuary. The manger scene included the Baby Jesus lying in his crib in a stable, with Mary
and Joseph kneeling beside him. In the background near the crib was an ox and donkey. In the foreground,
outside the stable, were the shepherds and sheep, the Wise Men and camels.
Above the stable door was an angel holding a banner with the words, “Glory to God in the Highest.” Above the
manger scene was the Star of Bethlehem.
The altar was decorated for the Christmas Eve Mass. A statue of the Blessed Mother with the Christ Child was
surrounded with Christmas trees. The trees were decorated with silver tinsel and colored lights. Wreaths and
poinsettias were placed on the altar. More Christmas trees were placed on either side of the tabernacle. E. E.
Combs, an Evansville photographer, captured the scene with his camera.
FATHER EUGENE CARLTON McCOLLOW
In 1930, Father Raymond Mahoney was transferred to St. Victor's parish in Monroe and he was replaced by Rev.
Eugene Carlton McCollow of Monroe. Father McCollow found the parish to be in excellent financial condition, with
a balance of more than $6,000 in the treasury.
However, it was the beginning of the Depression and many people were desperate for money, desperate enough
to steal from a church. In July 1930, someone stole a candelabrum and money from St. Paul’s church. The
candelabrum had sentimental value because it had been given in memory of Michael McCarroll. Police Chief Fred
Gillman recovered the candelabrum from a ginseng field a few blocks from the church. The money was never
Perhaps because of the Depression, Father McCollow was more conservative in suggesting remodeling projects
than other priests had been. During the difficult economic time of the 1930s, there were few physical changes to
Father McCollow followed the lead of other Evansville church pastors and kept St. Paul parish members informed
about special services by news releases to the Evansville Review. Father McCollow announced the beginning of
the 1931 Lenten season. He conducted special services on Sunday and Friday evenings, in addition to the
regular morning masses.
The fund raising activities, so popular during the other parts of the year, were curtailed during Lent. However, the
Irish always managed to celebrate St. Patrick’s day with a dinner and dance, sponsored by St. Mary’s Sodality.
The Jiggs dinner was served, followed by a public card party.
Many of the same women who worked on other activities were in charge of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The
advertisements for the 1931 event listed the following committee members: Mrs. Peter Garry, general chairman;
Mrs. J. P. Guilfoyle, Miss Helen Logic, Mrs. Dan Lynch, Mrs. John Gundlach, Mrs. Harry Hayward, Mrs. Fred Gary,
Mrs. Wayne Graves, and the Misses Ruby Meely, Nora Dalton and Genevieve Croak.
The women also got together for study classes. The Catholic Woman’s study class met in the parish hall.
Father McCollow scheduled Sunday masses for 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. The weekday masses were held at 7:30 a.m.
and the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was said at 4 p.m. every Sunday. Father McCollow heard
confessions every Saturday at 7 p.m.
LENT AND HOLY WEEK
Father McCollow and his parishioners observed Ash Wednesday by blessing and distributing the ashes at the
morning service. In the evening, Father McCollow led the stations of the Cross and Benediction of the Blessed
Sacrament. Then ashes were distributed to those who could not attend the morning service.
During Holy Week, Good Friday was observed with the unveiling of the cross and the reading of the Passion. A
service was held on Saturday morning to bless the Paschal Candle, the baptismal water and font, and the Easter
Fire. The Lenten season closed at noon on Holy Saturday.
McCollow did oversee the installation of a new pipe organ that was used for the first time during the Midnight Mass
on Christmas Eve, December 1931. Mildred Bodenberger was the organist for the service. Evelyn Lay and
Donald Wissbaum played violin and Hazel Kelly was the vocal soloist.
The new priest also recognized the importance of the successful social and fund raising activities for the benefit of
the church. The Irish Picnic was held in late summer and a crew of more than one hundred organized and staffed
Mildred Bodenberger, the church organist, arranged the entertainment for the 1932 picnic. She put together a
small orchestra. Mildred played the saxophone; Donald Wissbaum the violin; Mary Wurms, piano; Ronald Brown,
cornet; and Betty Main, the drums. The group performed several musical numbers.
Vocal selections for the day were in keeping with the picnic’s theme, “My Wild Irish Rose,” “Come Back to Erin,”
“Mother Macree”, “A Shanty In Old Shanty Town,” and “The Bells of St. Mary’s.” Dan Finnane acted as master of
ceremonies, and introduced the old time fiddle playing and Irish dancers.
Mrs. Peter Garry was in charge of the kitchen crew that prepared meals for the Irish Picnics. Her husband brought
a kitchen-on-wheels that was usually used to prepare meals for Garry's road building crew.
Serving dinner to hundreds of people from an outdoor kitchen was no easy task and also required moving
appliances and kitchen utensils, as well as food to Finnane's Grove.
In addition to Garry's portable kitchen, the appliances used to prepare the Irish Picnic included nine gas stoves
borrowed from the Grange store and three wood ranges and three oil stoves borrowed from local hardware stores.
Elizabeth Garry requested that parishioners supply 400 chickens, 340 pies, 30 bushels of potatoes, 50 heads of
cabbage, 20 quarts of pickles, 30 pounds of coffee, 35 pounds of butter, 10 gallons of milk, 10 gallons of cream,
200 pounds of ham, and assorted vegetables. The donations kept the cost of preparing the meals low, so that the
profits for the church increased.
She divided her crews into very specific jobs, assigning some to prepare ham, others to cook potatoes, make
gravy, carry dishes, serve coffee, and act as waitresses. No detail was overlooked by the very organized Elizabeth
In November 1932, Father McCullow announced a 13-Hour Devotion. The day opened with a Mass at 8 a.m. The
church was beautifully decorated with yellow, white and bronze chrysanthemums, yellow roses, oak leaves, palms
and ferns. The altar was draped with gold lace.
There were two visiting priests from Janesville, Father Dean Fiss and Father Vincent Thomas, and Father Faust
from Brodhead to assist with the service. Father Thomas from Janesville gave the evening homily. The homily
was followed by a procession and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. A similar program was held in
November 1933, with the same priests and Rev. Henry Schmitt of Delavan was invited to give the sermon.
The women of St. Mary’s Sodality continued the tradition of a Yuletide Bazaar. The annual supper was held in the
church basement and entertainment was provided by local musicians. Evansville and Janesville businesses
donated prizes. Food items, cookware, neckties, and perfume were popular prizes for the drawings.
The people of St. Paul also enjoyed having former priests return as speakers for special programs. Father Sidney
Dwyer was invited to talk about his trip to a Catholic gathering in Ireland. More than a million people attended the
Dublin convention. Dwyer also traveled to other countries in Europe, visited Rome, and assisted at a Mass in St.
Shortly after his program at Saint Paul, Father Sidney Joseph Dwyer, died at Mercy Hospital in Janesville. His
obituary was printed in the Evansville Review. Father Dwyer was described as “beloved by his Evansville
congregation as well as by all parishes with which he was connected during his 15-year ecclesiastical career.”
Father Dwyer died at the age of 43. A Pontifical Solemn Requiem Mass was celebrated in Milwaukee by
Archbishop, Rev. Samuel A. Stritch.
THE DEPRESSION AND THE IRISH PICNIC
The Depression reduced attendance at the Irish Picnics. The women and men of St. Paul continued to
enthusiastically organize picnics. The meal price was reduced to 35 cents to encourage more people to buy
dinners. However, because there were many laid off workers and a poor economy, there was a smaller crowd at
the 1933 event, and the revenues also dropped.
The Irish Picnics of the 1930s turned serious as prominent local speakers addressed the issues of the day. The
speaker for the picnic in 1933 was W. H. Doughtery, a Janesville attorney. Doughtery discussed the National
Recovery Act (NRA) a government program to assist those who were unemployed.
Evansville, like the rest of the country, had out-of-work residents. Those attending the Irish Picnic knew families
effected by the layoffs in the workforce. Some Evansville residents benefited by the federally funded programs
described by Doughtery. The federally funded workers were employed on park improvements, painting
classrooms at the schools, and street projects. Everyone knew a family or individual hurt by the depressed
economy. People listened attentively as Doughtery explain the government's attempts to help its citizens.
The following year, the price of the meal was raised to 40 cents. Another former priest, Rev. William McDermott
was invited to speak at the 1934 Irish Picnic. The topic of his address was "Divine Guidance as a Panacea for the
Solving of Our Present Difficulties." More than 2,000 people came to hear him speak and to attend the festivities
and meals. The small gate fee of 15 cents and the 40 cent dinner brought proceeds of only $350.
During his last few months as pastor of St. Paul, Father McCollow officiated at the sacrament of First Communion
for a class of 14 children on the first Sunday in June 1934. The group was escorted to the communion rail by ten
flower girls. The children in the First Communion class were Joyce Montgomery, Margaret Ludden, Jean Anne
Farnsworth, Alice Story, Ida Tanner, Frances Mae Leary, Bernadine Griffeth, Robert Kelly, Roger Collins, Norbert
Lynch, George McGuire, Joseph and Eugene Keegan, and Phillip Olson.
FATHER FRANCIS J. MEHIGAN
The parish once again had a new priest on January 15, 1935. Father Francis J. Mehigan was appointed to St.
Paul by Archbishop Samuel A. Stritch. Father McCollow was assigned to St. Victor in Monroe. Robert Dalton, who
was Father McCollow’s housekeeper and chauffeur, transferred to Monroe with Father McCollow.
When he arrived in Evansville, Father Mehigan had been out of the Seminary just six years. He spent the rest of
his life at St. Paul. Mehigan led the church through the final years of the Depression and into the tragic era of
World War II.
Father Mehigan did not alter the Mass times established by earlier priests. He buried many of the older members
of the parish and brought in new members.
During Father Mehigan’s administration, the pew rent was $24 a year for families, with an additional charge of $5
for fuel. The pew rent was $12 a year for single people over the age of 18, with a fuel charge of $3. Those who
were 18 were to be listed in the parish rolls. In the annual reports each year, Father Mehigan reminded the
parishioners, “Everyone of means is bound in conscience to support the Church. The Catholic Herald Citizen is
sent free to everyone. Those who wish to pay for the paper may make a donation of $1.20.”
The pew rent was due each month and people were reminded not to wait until the end of the year to make their
payments, as the church had to meet expenses as they came due. For those who found it difficult to pay, there
were work opportunities. In the 1939 annual report, Father Mehigan wrote, “Charles Kelly worked off his pew rent
by taking excellent care of the cemetery.”
Father Mehigan reminded new parents to have their baby baptized within two weeks after birth. Those
contemplating marriage were to contact Father Mehigan six weeks ahead of the wedding date. He also reminded
people to remember the church in their wills, and suggested wording, “I give and bequeath to St. Paul Catholic
church organized and situated at Evansville, Wisconsin in the County of Rock, the sum of …...dollars.”
The usual round of yearly activities of the Holy Name Society and St. Mary’s Sodality continued while Father
Mehigan was at St. Paul. In January and February card parties were held in the parish hall. In March parishioners
held the annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
A new fundraiser was theater parties at the Magee Theater. The films appealed to children and adults. David
Copperfield and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm were shown. The Holy Name Society added Bingo parties to the
fund raising activities in the late 1930s. The Irish Picnic in the summer was well advertised and a list of names of
everyone able to help with the event was published in the local weekly newspaper. Another round of card parties,
Halloween parties, and bazaars, were held as the year drew to a close. The parish hall was decorated
appropriately for each occasion.
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Father Mehigan organized the entertainment at the Irish Picnics. Dan Finnane
welcomed Father Mehigan’s help. Finnane was in his late seventies and had worked for the success of the picnics
for nearly 30 years.
Father Mehigan presided at the wedding of the church organist, Mildred Bodenberger, in 1936. A few months
later, in the spring of 1937, Father Mehigan traveled to Europe and while he was away, St. Paul church lost one of
its founders. Joseph Bodenberger died in May 1937.
Bodenberger had served as the first secretary and treasurer of St. Paul’s Congregation. Because Father Mehigan
was traveling in Europe, Father McCollow presided at the Requiem Mass. A choir from Brodhead sang.
Bodenberger's pallbearers were his old friends and the leading men of St. Paul, Dan Finnane, Martin Croak,
Charles Maloy, Dan Lynch, Peter Garry and John Kennedy.
IRISH PICNIC MOVES TO PARISH GROUNDS
In the late 1930s, the Parish picnics were held on the grounds of St. Paul on Garfield Avenue. The women found it
much easier to use the kitchen in the church basement, even though they still borrowed appliances, fans and other
items from the Grange Store.
For the 1939 event, Christy Ryan built a platform for the entertainment, but for the first time, he was unable to
dance the Irish jig. Ryan was in poor health but he did manage to entertain the audience with a few Irish songs.
The following year, he was back to his old routine of dancing.
To improve ticket sales, crews of volunteers went door-to-door in Evansville to sell dinner tickets that also included
chances for prizes. Food items were popular prizes during the Depression. The chance of winning a bushel of
apples, a sack of flour, ham, coffee and small cash prizes was enough incentive to purchase a dinner ticket.
Elizabeth Garry was still in charge of the preparation of the meal and she managed her army of workers by
assigning committees with very detailed tasks. The more experienced women were put in charge of the cooking
and the dining room, while the young girls looked after keeping the bread trays and the pie dishes filled.
Everything was managed to move as many people as possible through the dining hall, in order to make as much
profit as possible.
Dan Finnane, Sr. continued to welcome people to the entertainment portion of the Irish Picnic, though Father
Mehigan had been responsible for the program for several years.
Amateur contests were popular entertainments at the Irish Picnics in the early 1940s. Singers, dancers, and
instrumentalists performed before the judges.
In the 1940 contest, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Krause of Albany won second prize for their banjo and guitar duets. Mrs.
Alice Stores of Janesville took first prize with a vocal solo “My Wild Irish Rose.”
The last Irish Picnic was held in 1942. World War II, with the rationing of gas, tires and food brought a halt to the
annual fund raiser. On June 25, 1942, Father Mehigan wrote in the church records: "We have had an Irish Picnic
every year since I've been here. The year before I came they made $350. We made around $1,000 or better on
my 1st Picnic and since that time we have stayed around that figure. Right now we don't know what we are going
to do about the 1942 Picnic.” He also noted: “Rubber and sugar rationing on account of the War."
The church held the 1942 picnic and more than 145 people assisted in the preparation and serving of the meal.
The organizers showed their appreciation by listing the names of each helper in the Evansville Review.
The noon dinner was served to 1,200 and more than 500 ate the evening meal. The crowd was estimated at 4,500.
Father Mehigan recorded in the parish account book, “We made about $1,300 net — rained at 6:30 —we would
have made more. Picnic held on Aug. 9, 1942.”
PARISH CONTINUES TO WORK FOR A SCHOOL
The energy and enthusiasm that prompted so many to work so hard for the success of the fund raisers was due in
part to the continued dream that the church would someday have its own school. In the meantime, the school-age
children were taught religious classes on Saturdays by nuns from the Mercy Sisters of Janesville and Father
Father Mehigan’s account book recorded the devotion of the congregation and the Mercy Sisters in the education
of the young people. “We have catechism every Sat. morning during the school year by the Mercy Sisters of
Janesville and the Pastor. The Sisters really do a fine job. Their salary is $50 (for the two of them) which is a
crime. The members of the congregation volunteer to bring them by auto each Saturday.” The $50 was an annual
fee according to the church record books.
During the War the church purchased two large flags to display in the sanctuary, an American flag and a Church
flag. Father Mehigan led the congregation in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Holy Name Society Pledge, the first
time the flags were displayed in the church.
In June 1943, St. Paul’s conducted the Sacrament of Confirmation for 33. The young people and adults were
confirmed by Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona. The names of the confirmed were Alice Coyne, Darlene Douglas, Betty
and Beverly Dutcher, Donna Erpenbach, Mrs. Earl Farnsworth, Joanne Fraser, Lorraine Griffin, Bethana
Gundlach, Donna Hartl, Joanne Horan, Geraldine Miller, Mrs. Ward Popanz, Mrs. Frank Strickert, Agnes Wollinger,
Dolores Uselman, James Cassidy, David and Terry Clark, Anthony Coyne, Rodney Douglas, James Finnane,
Forrest Foulkes, Richard Horan, William McCarthy, Richard and Thomas Meredith, Mrs. Arlie Smith, James
Spaulding, Robert Petterson, Jerry Weber, Walter Strickert and I. O. Pratt.
Evansville’s first young woman to become a nun left Evansville in August 1943. Agnes Croak, became Sister M.
Janet, C.S.A. in the Sisters of St. Agnes. She served as an instructor at St. Mary’s Springs Academy in Fond du
The war conditions forced the church to abandon the Irish Picnic as a fund raiser in 1943, 1944 and again in
1945. Father Mehigan placed a notice in the Review that because of the war conditions, there would be no Irish
Picnic. Mehigan and others in the church felt that it was their patriotic duty to conserve the scarce resources.
Food, rubber products, grease and oils, sugar and other products were rationed and desperately needed to
maintain the armed services manpower and military machines. Father Mehigan told the Evansville Review that the
congregation would find another way to raise the money. He promised that "when the war is over and gas, tires
and food is again plentiful, the annual Irish picnic probably will be resumed in Evansville."
To meet the operating expenses that had been financed by the annual Irish Picnic, a Picnic Assessment was
added to the pew rent for each family and single adult over the age of 18.
Church members had always been generous with their support of the church and the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
When the Archbishop asked St. Paul’s Congregation to support his annual charity drive in March 1945, Peter
Garry agreed to be the chairman. Garry and his committee worked hard to meet the Archbishop’s request. When
the drive was finished, St. Paul members contributed more than the Archbishop had requested of the parish.
Father Mehigan expressed his appreciation for the workers and the contributors.
Dr. John Guilfoyle, St. Paul’s treasurer for 20 years, died in 1945. Charles Maloy was elected treasurer. John J.
Gundlach served as secretary.
Christopher Ryan, the popular entertainer and loyal St. Paul parishioner, died in August 1945. Father Mehigan
officiated at his funeral and Ryan was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Janesville. His obituary noted that for 15
years he was the feature attraction at the annual Irish picnics. His jig dancing and singing of old Irish songs always
set the pace for the picnic, often attended by as many as 3,000.
On January 9, 1946, St Paul became part of the newly organized Diocese of Madison. Bishop William P. O’Connor
was named the first Bishop.
Though World War II ended in August 1945, it was many months before most of the military men returned to civilian
life. Father Mehigan, a veteran of World War I, served as chaplain to the local American Legion.
When most servicemen of World War II had returned home, the Holy Name Society planned a homecoming
celebration for them. George Mattakat, John Gundlach, Charles Maloy and Edward Erpenbach were in charge of
tickets for the veterans. The committee made calls on all of the men who had served in the war, whether in battle,
or in support units and provided them with tickets to the testimonial dinner in the church basement. More than 225
veterans and Holy Name Society members attended.
The members of the Holy Name Society of St. Paul’s formed committees to cook and serve the meal and to
decorate the parish hall. In addition to the ticket committee, Mark Collins and William Finneran were on the
reception committee; John Kennedy, Andy Felber, Carroll Hartl, Joe Hartl, Herbert Coyne, Paul Dooley, Jim
Finnane, Clarence Karn, Tom Hampel, Dr. P. S. Kauth, William and Desmond McCarthy, John McDermott, Louis T.
Shea, Lyle Tullis, Harry Carey, Dan Finnane, Carl Wissbaum, Merlin Francis, Stanley Farrell, Veron H. Laufenberg,
Dan Lynch, Dave Meichtry, Frank Murphy, Steve McDermott, Steve Putnam, John Sullivan, Joseph Zahradka, John
Gundlach and Dick Meredith were the kitchen and dinner committee.
The parish hall was decorated in patriotic colors, red, white, and blue. Father Mehigan served as master of
ceremonies and the entertainment included speeches, humorous skits, and songs. St. Paul choir member, Robert
Kelly, sang "God Bless America." A local barber shop quartet sang, and Robert Kelly led community singing. Rev.
Paul Croake, chaplain in the U.S. Navy, was guest speaker. A minute of silence was observed in memory of the
Evansville men who lost their lives. The banquet was the church's expression of gratitude and appreciation to the
In 1947, a small remodeling project was approved. New restrooms were built in the basement and the basement
furnace room was fireproofed. The kneelers were also padded, providing comfort to the parishioners during
The outside of the church was painted and repaired in 1948 and a new furnace was installed in 1949. All of the
expenditures for improvements to the church were approved by Bishop William P. O’Connor and the Vicar General
of the Diocese.
To cover increasing expenses, the pew rent was increased in 1948 to $30 for a family and $16 for single persons.
The fuel charges were $7 and $4. Because the annual Irish Picnic had been abandoned, beginning in 1943 and
continuing through 1951, each parish member was asked to pay a Picnic Assessment. The donations in lieu of the
picnic ranged from $5 to $100.
In February 1948, a new fund raiser was organized. George Mattakat headed the Holy Name Society's first auction
sale in the church basement. William Finneran was the auctioneer. Farmers brought in grain, women brought
their fancy work, dressed chickens, and canned goods, and merchants donated small appliances and used
articles. Michael Finnane, president of the Holy Name Society announced the following men were in charge of the
auction. Charles Malony was general chairman. Ed Erpenbach was chairman of the committee to get items to sell.
Within a few weeks, Erpenbach had secured nearly 150 items. John Kennedy was the auction clerk and Robert
Kelly was cashier.
Ironically, the auction was announced in the same issue of the Evansville Review that told of the death of another
of the founders of St. Paul's. Daniel Finnane, a famous auctioneer himself, died just days before this new fund
raiser was to be held.
The previous year, Finnane received a special blessing because of his long commitment to the success of the
parish of St. Paul. When the new Bishop of the Madison Diocese, William P. O'Connor came to St. Paul's to
perform the first confirmation since becoming Bishop, he blessed Daniel F. Finnane, Sr.
Finnane had worked side-by-side with other founders of the church for more than forty years. Finnane died at his
farm home north of Evansville, the site of the Irish Picnics. He had contributed his talents to raise thousands of
dollars to support the parish. Father Mehigan performed the Requiem Mass in St. Paul’s. The committal service
was at Calvary Cemetery, Croak’s Settlement, in Magnolia township, where Finnane had lived before coming to
PILGRIMAGE TO HOLY HILL
In June 1949, St. Mary’s Sodality sponsored a pilgrimage to Holy Hill. Families were invited to go in a car caravan
that started after the 7:30 a.m. Mass on the second Sunday in June. Sue Finnane, Ruth Maas and Irma Miller
were in charge of the tour. Families brought picnic lunches for the day-long excursion. Over the years, Holy Hill
was a favorite place for pilgrimages.
DONATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS FOR ST. PAUL
A statue of St. Joseph was donated in memory of Dr. David Mehigan in 1949. Father Mehigan oversaw the 1950
redecorating of the church interior. A new organ for the choir loft was also purchased in 1950. The Holy Name
Society contributed $800 towards the purchase. A junior choir was organized and Father Mehigan was making
arrangements to open a parochial school in Evansville in the fall of 1951. However, before his dream could be
realized, Rev. Francis J. Mehigan died in his sleep in the rectory of St. Paul in February 1951.
Before his death, Father Mehigan followed his own advice to his parishioners and made out a will leaving $1,000
to St. Paul. The money was to be used for the altar and the sanctuary. He also asked for prayers for himself. He
gave special thanks to his friend, John Gundlach, the church secretary.
The people remembered Father Mehigan for his jovial nature, kindness and concern for their religious life.
Mehigan earned the respect of many in the community, beyond the members of his own church. An Evansville
Review editor praised Father Mehigan’s contributions to the community.
Priests from all over the area gathered for the funeral and a priests' choir sang at the funeral. Local parishioner,
Robert Kelly, sang "Ave Maria" and "Just for Today", one of Mehigan's favorite hymns.
MONSIGNOR EDWARD M. KINNEY
After Father Mehigan’s death Monsignor Edward M. Kinney was sent to St. Paul’s and served as an interim priest
from 1951 to 1952. During this time, he also served as Chancellor of the Diocese.
Monsignor Kinney was concerned about the condition of the rectory and the church. He called a meeting of
church officers and members, including William Finneran, George Kelly, Floyd Miller, John Kennedy, Ed
Erpenbach, Daniel Finnane, Jr. and Daniel Lynch.
He asked the men to consider repairing the church roof and eves, repairing the kitchen and redecorating the living
room of the rectory, and getting new carpet for the sanctuary. He also recommended painting both of the houses
owned by the church.
During Kinney’s time at St. Paul, the Picnic Assessment was eliminated and replaced with a building fund
assessment. Everyone 18 and older was expected to contribute and the names and amounts given were printed
and distributed annually. The teenagers who had not reached 18 were encouraged to donate what they could and
their names were listed separately in the annual report.
He also recommended organizing the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, (CCD) into three discussion clubs, the St.
Elizabeth Club, the Little Flower Club, and an unnamed group. All of the participants were women of the parish.
Father Kinney also organized a community discussion group at St. Paul’s. One of the first discussions was on the
topic "What can communities do to relieve emotional strain."
The program at St. Paul’s was part of a discussion at the annual Farm and Home Week held at the University of
Wisconsin in Madison. The meeting in Evansville was sponsored by the Holy Name Society and St. Mary’s
Sodality. Sixty people attended the discussion.
Father Francis Doherty, then pastor of the Doylestown parish, was one of the participants in the discussion. He
told the participants that there was too much emphasis on material values and a lack of understanding of man's
purpose in life.
Others talked about harmony in the home and placing more emphasis on the family. Some suggested that the
consolidation of rural schools with city schools was causing emotional strain. J. C. McKenna, superintendent of
schools, led the discussion on the rural school problem.
Monsignor Kinney summarized the group discussion in a presentation at the University of Wisconsin's Farm and
Home Week in 1952. Kinney's conclusion was that building a sense of security and a feeling of harmony in the
home was primary in reducing emotional tension.
FATHER FRANCIS DOHERTY
In April 1952, Father Francis Doherty replaced Monsignor Kinney at Saint Paul's. Kinney was named rector of St.
Raphael's cathedral in Madison.
That summer Doherty supervised the renovation of St. Paul's church and houses. The renovation of the church
and rectory, and the construction of a new garage on Garfield Street was expected to cost $17,1717. A $10,000
loan was approved to cover a portion of the cost of the remodeling. The remainder was to be paid from the
building fund and donations from the congregation.
The North First Street side entrance of the church was closed and the former vestibule of the side entrance
became a small room with a large plate glass window facing the altar. The announcement of the remodeling said,
“While caring for the little ones the mothers will be able to see and enjoy the church services through two
thermopane window panels.”
Most parishioners referred to the new room as the “cry room.” If the occupants of the room, cried or talked, they
did not disturb the rest of the congregation, or the priest. The small room also increased the seating capacity by
thirty-five seats. The church could seat 275, according to Father Doherty’s calculations.
Father Doherty contacted the Cathedral Craftsmen of Waukesha to make a new baptismal font, a lectern, a large
center chair and two side chairs, and a new communion rail. The company also built new pews for the interior.
Cathedral Craftsmen’s contract was submitted to Father Doherty in May 1952. All of the new fixtures were to be
made of white oak. The bid for pews, baptismal font, lectern, Sedilia (the three chairs) and the communion rail was
New carpeting was installed in the church sacristy and choir loft. There were also improvements made to the
wiring, heating, and insulation. New storm windows were added to the church’s stained glass windows and the
exterior of the church was painted.
The former rectory on First Street was insulated and a new heating system was installed. The Henry Holz family,
the caretakers for the church, lived in North First Street house. Father Doherty lived in the rectory on Garfield
Avenue, just east of the church.
A new garage was built for the parish house on Garfield Avenue. Henry Holz and Ed Erpenbach did the
construction, completing most of the work in the evenings and on weekends, after their regular jobs.
New sidewalks were installed around the church property. New vestments were also purchased at the time of the
The women and men’s organizations continued their activities, as they had for many years. In Every man in the
parish was eligible to join the Holy Name Society for $1.50 a year. The Holy Name Society held corporate
communion of its members. John Kennedy was in charge of the breakfast that followed the Mass.
The dues for St. Mary’s Sodality were $1 per year. In September 1952, St. Mary’s Sodality elected new officers.
Claire Smith was named prefect. She replaced Ruth Foster as the head of the organization. Susan Finnane was
elected vice president; Nora Montgomery, secretary; Virginia Hartl, treasurer; and Eveline Kennedy, food
The women sponsored card parties in January and February. Elizabeth Garry, who worked so hard on the Irish
Picnics from the 1920s to the 1940s, was the chairman of the card parties in the 1950s. Games of 500, canasta
and bridge were popular. More than 100 people attended the Sunday evening games. Prizes were donated by
local businessmen and St. Mary’s Sodality members.
The women sponsored, Holiday bazaars, in November or early December and bake sales and other fund raisers
during the rest of the year. Potluck suppers and speakers on religious topics were popular programs for the St.
Mary’s Sodality meetings.
Father Doherty’s Mass schedule was 8 a.m and 10 a.m. on Sunday. He said daily Mass at 7:15 a.m., except on
Friday when it was held at 7 a.m. He also held an adult inquiry class on Thursdays at 8 p.m.; confessions on
Thursday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
There was a large class Confirmed on April 19, 1953, by the Madison Diocese Bishop William P. O’Connor. He
Confirmed 37, including 18 adults and 19 young people. Monsignor Kinney came to assist in the sacrament. The
Laetare choir of Beloit sang before and after the service.
In his sermon, Bishop O’Connor told the members of St. Paul’s Congregation that they should be working toward
building a parochial school in Evansville. The building fund donations was replaced by a school fund donation in
the annual report of the parish. Within two years, an architect was chosen and plans were drawn for a school.
The alternative to a local parochial school was to bring nuns from other cities to teach the children their
Catechism. In August 1953, the church held a vacation religious school. Two nuns from Green bay, Sister Paulus
and Josephita and a nun from Bloomington, Illinois, Sister Mary Bethann, came to Evansville to conduct the
Following the two-week session, 12 children received their first communion, David Erpenbach, Barbara Kimberly,
Eugene Montgomery, Patricia Mosher, Earl Page, Joan Palmer, James Petterson, Elizabeth Popanz, Roger
Strickert, Janet Swanson, Karen Rasmussen and Richard Tullis.
During the school year, weekly instructions were given to the grade school children by Father Doherty, women of
the parish and three Dominican Sisters. The Sisters were from Mother of Consolation parish in Oregon. Volunteers
drove the nuns to and from Oregon each week. Some of the religious vacation schools were also conducted by
the Oregon nuns.
The leaders of St. Paul pursued the building of a school, and hired the architectural firm of Siberz, Purcell,
Cuthbert Architects, of Madison to design a building. In March 1955, the architects presented the Church Council
and Father Doherty with plans for a 4-room school.
The classrooms were on the first floor of the one-story building. A lunch room, toilets, teachers room, nurses
station, and a boiler room in the basement. The building was 161’ x 39’ and was to be placed on property that
was 3 lots, with an area of 189’ x 198’ so that in the future another four room addition could be constructed.
There was ample room for a play ground and the building, with the addition could accommodate 200 children.
The parish history, written by Rev. Leo Rummel, Madison, was printed in 1956 for the Golden Jubilee of the
parish. Father Rummel said that the congregation was actively raising money, searching for land for a new school
and ready to start construction of the four-room school designed by the architects. The church had more than
$14,000 in the school fund.
The booklet also announced the renewed hope of a school for the church: "For years the Catholics of Evansville
have always realized their need of a school where a religious atmosphere predominates." There was $14,355 in
the treasury to support the school and several locations had been considered, but none chosen.
In the anniversary booklet, Father Doherty noted that his parishioners were "reverent" and gave "quiet attention"
during the services. They did not "rush to the door as the priest leaves the altar", as Doherty had apparently
witnessed in other congregations.
The interior of the church was redecorated to celebrate the Jubilee. Father Doherty supervised the painting and
During the Golden Jubilee year of the parish, Bishop William P. O’Connor Confirmed sixty people. There were
twenty adult candidates for the Sacrament of Confirmation and 40 children in April 1956.
The following month, on Sunday, May 6, 1956, the Bishop returned to help the church celebrate the 50th
anniversary. The Bishop, 37 visiting priests, and Father Doherty met at the rectory and proceeded to the church
through an honor guard of the Holy Name Society.
The altar was decorated with golden mums. The choir was led by Robert Kelly with Irma Miller as the organist
St. Paul Catholic Irma Miller as the organist.
A solemn High Mass was offered by Monsignor Edward M. Kinney, the former pastor. He was assisted by Father
Ferdinand A. Mack, Father Raymond E. Klass, Father George O. Wirz and two young men who attended the
Seminary, Ronald Holz and John Quam.
The women of the parish served a dinner to the visiting priests. St. Mary's Sodality president, Ann Ellis, was in
charge of the dinner. She was assisted by a committee of women including Elnora Erpenbach, Mrs. Stanley
Farrell, Lucy Hartl, Eveline Kennedy, Hazel Maloy, Gertrude McDermott, Irma Miller, Ruth Polich, Claire Smith, Mae
Sullivan, Mrs. Lyell Tullis, Mrs. George Walk and Mrs. Al Rasmussen.
The women continued their raising and social activities. They held a get-acquainted reception for new women
teachers and wives of the men teachers each fall as the public school year began. They also held Christmas
parties for the children and “Glitter and Gleam” Christmas bazaars.
The St. Theresa Study club was for the women who wanted to increase their knowledge of church teachings. The
women also prepared and served meals for special occasions such as the Golden Jubilee.
At the time of the golden anniversary, Charles Maloy and Edward Erpenbach were trustees of the church.
Together with Father Francis Doherty, they were responsible for overseeing the financial and spiritual condition of
In 1957, in anticipation that the parish would build a school, St. Paul’s Congregation purchased the house directly
east of the church rectory on Garfield Avenue. The home was owned by George Walk, a St. Paul parishioner.
However, plans for the school did not materialize and the house was sold within two years to Don and Darlene
Vreeland. The home was later sold to Margaret Bong, who served as the housekeeper for the local priests.
FATHER JAMES KRAMER
In 1957, Father James Kramer was assigned to the church as its pastor. In addition to his duties in Evansville,
Father Kramer was also the superintendent of schools for the Madison Diocese and he was pursuing advanced
studies at the University of Wisconsin.
Father Kramer presided over the funeral of John A. Kennedy in January 1958, a man who had been active in the
Holy Name Society, and had served as its president. Kennedy participated in many of the fund raising activities of
the church, including the Irish Picnic, card parties. For many years, John and his wife, Eveline, and children, Jack,
Tom, and Kathleen, had lived in the parish house on North First Street and served as caretakers for the rectory
and church. His pall bearers were men who had also served the church faithfully, Mike Finnane, Ed Erpenbach,
Stanley Farrell, Charles Maloy, John McDermott and Mark Collins. John Kennedy was buried in Holy Cross
The one near disaster reported for the church buildings occurred during Rev. Kramer's administration. One
Saturday in May 1959, while Father Kramer was in Madison serving as a judge in a school spelling contest, the
rectory furnace malfunctioned. The chimney was damaged, but fortunately, there was no fire. The house and some
of its contents were damaged by smoke.
The church schedule during Father Kramer’s term included Sunday Masses at 8 and 10 a.m. and a daily Mass at 7
a.m. Grade school catechism classes were held on Saturday mornings at 10 and the High School Newman Club
met on Wednesday evenings at 7:30, during the school year.
The women of St. Paul were very active in the Rock Deanery. Several times in the 1960s, the local church hosted
the Rock Deanery meeting. In 1960, St. Paul organist, Irma Miller was president of the Rock Deanery. Irma had
also served as president of Evansville’s St. Mary’s Sodality. Several other Evansville women served on the Board
of the Rock Deanery, Mrs. A. J. Geisler was the historian; Kathleen Helgesen and Tracy Shea were co-prefects;
Mrs. Frank Bender served as Chairman of the Spiritual Development Committee and Carla Heimerl, served as
Chairman of the Public Relations committee.
LARGE CONFIRMATION CLASS
The 1962 Confirmation class was one of the largest ever to receive the Sacrament at St. Paul’s. On Tuesday
February 13, 1962. Seventy–two young people and adults were confirmed by Bishop William P. O’Connor. Bishop
O’Connor was assisted by 15 priests, including St. Paul’s, Father James G. Kramer and former parish priest,
Father Francis E. Doherty.
The church choir was directed by Robert Kelly, with Irma Miller as organist. Choir members for the event were
Michael Finnane, Joseph Hartl, Harold Abey, Richard Chapman, Ruth Polich, Sandra Holz, Beth Popanz, Mary
Wagner, Karen Wagner, Sylvia Kimberley, Linda Denolf, and Virginia Denolf.
After the service, the visiting priests had dinner in St. Paul’s rectory. At the dinner, Bishop O’Connor was honored
for his 50th anniversary in the priesthood and 21 years as a Bishop.
A new generation of women took responsibility for St. Mary’s Sodality in the 1960s. Their work was divided into
several areas of responsibilities. In 1962, the president of the organization was Carla Heimerl. Helen Bly served
as vice president; Mrs. Dale Leeder, secretary; and Mary Huseth, as treasurer.
Several women served on the Sodality’s committees. Janet Petterson was in charge of cooperation with the CCD.
Angie Hall headed the spiritual development committee; Mary Margaret Kelly, the family-parent education and Ruth
Foster, public relations.
Irma Miller and Gertrude McDermott served on the visitation committee, Rita Nipple was leader of the welcome
committee and Eveline Kennedy was in charge of the sunshine fund, to send cards to those who were celebrating
special events, or who were ill.
The telephone committee, Gertrude McDermott, Nora Montgomery, Mrs. Harvey Rasmussen, Jeanette Blum, Lucy
Hartl, Mary Ellen Brennan, Ann Geisler and Mrs. J. P. Guilfoyle were in charge of contacting members when extra
help was needed for events, or to remind members about meetings.
Members were shared responsibility for the monthly programs of the Sodality. The women carried on the
traditional fund raising activities of bazaars and card parties.
SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL
In the 1960s there were many changes to the building and services of the church. By 1965, the congregation was
growing and to accommodate the worshipers, Father Kramer said 3 Sunday masses, at 7, 8:30 and 10 a.m. and
two weekday masses at 6:30 and 7 a.m.
The Second Vatican Council ended in 1965, and Father Kramer moved quickly to make the changes in the
liturgy. In April 1965, Father Kramer announced that all of the liturgical ceremonies of Holy Week would follow the
new English liturgy, “as set forth by the American Bishops and developed through the deliberations of Vatican
Kramer also announced that the church would be renovated to comply with the liturgical specifications of the
Vatican Council II.
A front-facing, light oak altar was installed so that the people and the priest faced each other during the mass. A
six-foot, hand carved, light oak crucifix was suspended above the altar. The floor of the sanctuary was rebuilt and
extended toward the seating area. The church interior and exterior walls were repainted and a new gold-toned
carpeting was installed.
During the 1966 year, the parish and its priest were very busy. Father Kramer completed his doctoral degree at
the University of Wisconsin in August. He majored in educational administration and minored in American history.
Kramer continued to serve as the superintendent of the diocese schools and as pastor of Saint Paul's.
The Second Vatican Council called for more participation by the congregation in the church administration and
services. The church elected its first Parish Advisory Council in 1966. The Council, as the executive body,
represented the members of the church. They worked closely with Father Kramer to plan the administration of the
church and to make arrangements for special celebrations and holy days
A few couples started a new organization called the Christian Family Organization to address the needs of couples
and families. Three couples, Ralph and Angie Hall, Helen and Robert Bennett and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Nauyokas
served as the organization committee.
The church continued to grow. In March 1968, the new Bishop of the Madison Diocese came to Evansville to
confirm 59 members of the parish. Only four members of the confirmation candidates were adults.
Annual elections were held for the Parish Advisory Council. In April 1968, Robert Bennett, Michael Finnane, and
Dr. Robert Heimerl were given three year terms. Angie Hall, Kathleen Helgesen and Frank Nauyokas were elected
to 2 year terms. Georgianna Hamilton, Ann Kerkenbush and Janet Petterson held 1 year terms.
Father Kramer completed his Ph. D. in Education at the University of Wisconsin and left St. Paul's parish in June
1968. He was given full-time responsibility for running the diocese schools. He had served the parish for a little
more than 10 years.
The congregation presented him with a memory book depicting events from his years at St. Paul's. They gave him
a farewell reception and welcomed their new priest, Father Joseph Brechtl.
FATHER JOSEPH BRECHTL
Father Brechtl came to Saint Paul's on June 13, 1968 from St. Andrew's Catholic Church in Verona. At St.
Andrews, he had helped organize the building of a new church, convent, school and rectory. He had also served
the parish of St. William’s in Paoli and had served on the Dane County Planning Commission for the Madison
He celebrated his 25th anniversary in the priesthood on September 23, 1969. Father Brechtl and his family
celebrated with a mass in the Brechtl family home. The Evansville congregation gave him a reception a few days
In a 1973 interview with Jane Whitmore, Father Brechtl said, "You are looking at two different people, a pre-Vatican
priest of twenty years, and second, a post-Vatican priest of nearly ten years." He described the change as being
hard for both the priest and the people, but he hoped together the people would find strength in unity.
FATHER BRECHTL TAKES CHARGE OF REMODELING
Father Brechtl, with advice from the church council, began to plan for renovation and an addition to the church. It
was the largest project the church had undertaken since the 1913 addition.
A two-story addition was made to the south-east side of the church. The new space provided a side entrance on
the east that led into the sanctuary, or to the basement meeting rooms. The kitchen was remodeled and a new
Room dividers were installed in the basement, so that the large room could be divided into smaller classes rooms
for the catechism classes. While the church was being renovated, the children's catechism classes were held at
the Congregational Church.
Windows on the east side of the church were carefully removed during the construction and placed in the small
chapel in the new addition. A special niche was built in the new addition to house the replica of the Last Supper,
that was purchased for the church during the first renovation in 1913. Kathleen Helgesen repaired and restored
the piece before it was placed in the stairway of the new entrance.
The new addition was dedicated in November 1974. Michael Finnane, son of one of the founders of the church,
spoke about the beginnings of the congregation in Evansville and his family's involvement in building the church.
Robert Brennan and Ralph Hall served as lectors during the dedication service conducted by Bishop Cletus
Members of the Congregational Church and their pastor Joshua Crowell were invited to the dedication. Both Rev.
Crowell and Father Brechtl participated in the short service of Thanksgiving. The members of St. Paul’s expressed
their appreciation for the generosity of the Congregationalists during the construction. Georgiana Hamilton wrote
a special poem of appreciation for the neighborliness of the Congregational members.
Once again, the church had increased its space and improved its facilities. There were new classrooms for
catechism classes, a new kitchen for church suppers and other social activities.
The following year, The Collincott Company was hired to restore the bricks and paint the exterior of the church. In
September 1975, the old paint was removed bricks were replaced and repaired. The soft bricks had eroded from
the effects of nearly 70 years of weathering. A special sealer was put on the bricks to prevent further
deterioration. Then two coats of white paint were put on to finish the work.
A church pictorial directory was published in 1976 and included portraits of members of St. Paul Catholic Church.
There were also snapshots of participants in the activities of the Church.
Volunteers seemed always ready to find ways to improve the church properties. In the fall of 1976, volunteers
placed a new sign at the Holy Cross Cemetery entrance. Dr. Robert Heimerl, Marvin Bong, and Ron DeKelver
built the stone foundation for the wood sign that was designed and lettered by Ron DeKelver.
FATHER THOMAS LOURIM
FATHER THOMAS LOURIM
New assignments of pastors usually took place in June and in 1977 a new priest was sent to St. Paul's. Rev.
Thomas Lourim, came to Evansville after serving two churches, St. Rose's in Brodhead and St. Patrick's in Albany.
For more than 20 years, Father Lourim had also served as chaplain for the Madison Catholic Women's Club. He
was also a collector of literature, antique furniture and art.
Father Lourim was ordained in Madison in 1948 after a career as a depression-era social worker for Rock County,
Wisconsin. Wisconsin’s centennial year was 1948 and Father Lourim told a reporter that during his ordination at
St. Raphael's, there was a parade going around the Capitol Square.
Father Lourim started a schedule of 5:00 and 7:30 Saturday evening masses. The 5:00 mass was combined with
a Penitential Rite. There were also two Sunday masses, at 8:30 and 10 a.m
During Father Lourim's administration, the ecumenical spirit that was fostered by the Second Vatican Council was
greatly improved at St. Paul.. Under his leadership, the people of St. Paul participation with other area churches in
services for the World Day of Prayer, Ecumenical Good Friday and Thanksgiving services and seminars planned
to help families cope with a changing society.
St. Mary’s Sodality had evolved and the women’s group was called St. Paul’s Council of Catholic Women or CCW.
The women continued to hold bake sales to fund projects for the church.
They also sponsored card parties on Sunday Afternoons in the fall. Euchre and 500 were favorite games. The
women of the parish worked on a new fund raiser in the 1970s. A spring salad bar luncheon. In the fall they held
the annual Christmas Bazaar with the traditional holiday baked goods and crafts. The proceeds were used to help
pay for church projects.
The Buffet Chicken Scallop was on nearly every menu of the fundraising events. It was a favorite dish. The
women received so many requests for the recipe that they gave it to the Evansville Review for publication.
The church was redecorated during Father Lourim's term at St. Paul's. The walls were papered and a simple gold
trim was placed around the dome of the altar area. A large crystal chandelier was hung above the altar and new
Stations of the Cross, painted in Byzantine style, were hung in the seating area of the church.
In 1985, fourteen Stations of the Cross were painted by Sharon Gill Jones of West Bend, Indiana. Her art was
exhibited at the Madison Catholic Women’s Club where Father Lourim saw and admired the work. He
commissioned her to do the Stations of the Cross for St. Paul.
The paint used was egg tempera on wood with a gesso base. The artist ground and mixed her own colors for the
paint. Richard Schwartz mounted each painting on teakwood crosses before they were placed on the interior walls
of the church.
The 1952 altar railing was removed from the front of the church. It was placed in the balcony.
Father Lourim brought back an old tradition of the Crowning of Mary. For the final Catechism class in the Spring of
1986, with the assistance of the girls in the 6th grade class, he led a procession from the church to Holy Cross
Nadine Breuning crowned a statue of Mary. Christie Baumberger and Marie Luers sang special music. Father
Lourim gave a brief homily about Mary and led the children in the recitation of several decades of the rosary.
Then the children walked back to the church, where refreshments were served.
Father Lourim took an active role in the religious life of the community. He was a member of the Evansville
Ministers Association. Father Lourim also worked with Harvey Stevens and the Evansville Historic Preservation
Committee to create a slide-tape program about the Evansville’s Historic District.
After serving at St. Paul's for 11 years, Father Lourim announced in the May 1, 1998 church bulletin that he had
“been retired by the Bishop and was leaving either the first or second week of June 1988.”
Father Lourim retired to Beloit and lived with his sister, Lucille. The parish said goodbye to him at a party held at
the Evansville Country Club. Before leaving the rectory, he donated his collection of art and antique books to the
Eager Free Public Library.
FATHER ROBERT HUGHES
On June 11, 1988, Father Robert W. Hughes gave his first sermon at St. Paul. An athlete who loved bicycling,
Father Hughes had toured the United States and Europe. He was a teacher and football coach at Holy Name
Seminary in Madison for several years. His vacations from St. Paul’s were often bicycle tours.
The summer that he arrived in Evansville, Father Hughes and the church council reinstated the annual picnics held
at Saint Paul. George Wollinger III coordinated the first picnic held in August 1988.
There were ball games, games of skill, bingo, and pot-luck food. The parish picnics were planned to allow
members of the parish to become better acquainted with each other, rather than the fund raisers of the Irish
Picnics of earlier times.
The first church secretary, Sue May was hired in November 1988. Sue worked part-time, three mornings a week,
to prepare the church bulletins and do other office work. Several parish members donated money towards a new
copier for the church office.
In November 1988, St. Paul’s parish hosted the Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service. St. Paul Parish Choir, under
the direction of Marsha Dobbs performed an anthem. Ministers from Evansville area churches and Father Hughes
led the various parts of the worship service.
Parish officers were elected in the early summer. . The 1990-91 officers were President, Richard Knudtson;
Secretary, Jeanette Jones. Each board member was given responsibility for the parish work: Finance, Jeanette
Blum; Education, Richard Knudtson; Liturgy, John Gernetzke; Building & Maintenance, Tim May.
One of the first actions of the new Council was to approve the redecorating and minor remodeling of the rectory.
Walter Baumberger and Tom Williams organized the volunteers to help wallpaper, and paint, with great success.
Father Hughes reported to the parish, “It reminded me of the barn raisings of a bygone era, and was an impressive
display of volunteerism in any time. Nowadays in most parishes all the work would have to be contracted out.
What is being done here is a tribute to the kind of spirit the people of this parish have, and is a tremendous
savings to the parish.”
The volunteers used their talents to make St. Paul church and rectory more efficient and comfortable. Kathleen
Helgesen and Shannon Baumberger received special mention for their painting and wallpapering. Tim Magee
cleaned the ceiling fans and Richard Schwartz built storage shelves for the church. Tim May installed electrical
outlets in the rectory and Tom Williams replaced a malfunctioning church speaker. The success of the work
program led to annual spring and fall clean-up sessions by parish volunteers.
Father Hughes introduced a Baptismal Preparation Program for first-time parents. Father Hughes had on hand
materials to help the new parents understand their responsibilities in preparation for their child’s baptism. The
parents met at least once with Father Hughes to prepare for the Sacrament.
When he announced the new program, Father Hughes said, “This is being implement with the hope and prayer
that it will be an aid in enhancing the appreciation of Baptism as Sacrament, and in developing and furthering
insight into the tremendous importance of the responsibility in Faith which is taken on by Christian parents.”
Father Hughes also reminded the members of the Parish to pray for the families of the children receiving the
Sacrament of Baptism.
In the late 1980s, Father Hughes continued an old tradition and published the marriage bans for three weeks prior
to the marriage of couples at St. Paul. This was a notice to the congregation to ask for prayers for the couple.
A new English version of the Book of Blessings was published in 1989 and in February 1990, Father Hughes
announced that he received the revision. Blessings from De Benedictionibus, the volume of the Roman Ritual,
which contained the Church’s blessing texts were published in the church bulletin.
Lent was a special time of sacrifice and fasting. Notices of fasting requirements for Lent were placed in the church
bulletin. Vatican II had changed the requirements substantially from earlier times.
Fast and abstinence was required on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; as well as abstinence on the Fridays of
Lent. All who were 14 years of age and old were required to observe the rules of abstinence. The fasts were to
be observed by those who had completed their 18th year and had not begun their 60th year. The faithful were
warned in the church bulletin that “no Catholic Christian will lightly excuse himself.”
During Lent, Father Hughes offered Stations of the Cross once a week at the Church and on Fridays at the
CHURCH MEMBERS ACTIVITIES
Children participated in the Operation Rice Bowl program during Lent. They saved money by sacrificing special
treats, candy bars or soda. The money was collected at the end of the Lenten season and was sent to the
Catholic Relief Services.
Shannon Baumberger coordinated bake sales and spring luncheons. The women also served meals following
funeral Masses, and each spring held a brunch for the high school graduates. A bake sale was held during
Evansville’s Crazy Days or Garage Sale Day event. Irene Higginbotham was in charge of this bake sale. Women
of the parish were generous in baking and donating money, if they were unable to bake.
The women held regular meetings from September to May. One popular meeting was the annual ornament
exchange and bingo at the December meeting.
In the late 1980s to 1999, CCW member Kathleen Helgesen coordinated St. Paul volunteers to deliver meals to
shut-ins for the Meals-On-Wheels program . This community program used volunteers from Evansville’s
churches. St. Paul’s Congregation was responsible for two months each year.
Lay teachers volunteered to teach the Religious Education classes for children of the parish. In the late summer
there were always calls in the bulletin for volunteers to help. Audrey Rasmussen was the coordinator for the
Sunday classes in 1989 -1991. Helene Williams coordinated the afternoon classes and was also a teacher in
1989. Father Hughes taught the classes for the students in grades 7 to 10. .
The church choir, directed by Marsha Dobbs, gave a concert of sacred music in June 1989. Soloists for the
concert were Marie Luers, Christia Baumberger, Linda DeKelver, and George Wollinger. Choir members, in
addition to the soloists, were Ruth Polich, Angie Hall, Margaret Reilly, Georgiana Hamilton, Janet Petterson, Susan
Luers, Janice Turner, Mike Finanne and Ralph Hall, Norm Paulson, Walter Baumberger, Bill Doucette,. Ruth Ann
Montgomery accompanied the choir.
In November 1989, new Mass chasubles in the colors of violet and green were purchased with memorial gifts. The
new garments were used by the priest for Advent, Lent and Ordinary time. They were purchased with donations
made in memory of Jay Blum and Edward Stamm. The following spring, new red Mass vestments were donated in
memory of Bernie Kovars. The red vestments were used for the first time on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, 1990.
NEW CHURCH DIRECTORY
The church published a new pictorial directory in 1990. One hundred eighty-nine families and individuals posed
for portraits. The project was coordinated by John and Debbie Roemer and Janet Petterson.
For many years, volunteers decorated the church for the Christmas Midnight Mass and other special occasions.
This tradition continued into the 1990s. Women of the parish made banners to commemorate different seasons of
the church year and special events. Decorations were arranged in the church throughout the year by volunteers.
For Christmas 1990, Linda DeKelver, Janice Turner, and Deb Whitmore, with the assistance of high school
students, Mike Brickl, Jenny Grovesteen, Sandy Larson and Libby Kress, decorated the altar with wreaths and
evergreens, banners, and Christmas trees. The Nativity set was refurbished by Kathleen Helgesen, and the
manger scene was ready for display, as it had been for many years.
Father Hughes initiated another summer tradition, the annual trip of the Mass servers to see a professional
baseball game in Milwaukee. Dick Knudtson and Donna Malterer were the chaperones for the 1990 trip.
Cathy Nevel directed St. Paul’s Youth Choir for grades 5 to 8 in the fall of 1991. The choir made its debut at the 5
p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve. For the same service the St. Paul’s Liturgy Committee planned a special children’s
At the Christmas Eve Vigil, the children of the parish presented a pageant about the Birth of Jesus. The parish
was also asked to contribute to a sock and mitten basket that was placed at the front of the church. The donations
were given those in the community who needed warm clothing for the winter.
A new tradition was started in 1992. The decorating committee, officially named the Liturgical Environment
committee, asked for donations of money to purchase Easter plants to decorate the church alter
Margaret Bong loaned her Crown of Thorns plant to commemorate the suffering of Jesus during his trial and his
Resurrection. On Good Friday, the plant was turned so that the thorns could be seen and on Easter Sunday the
plant’s opposite side, with green leaves and red flowers was displayed.
The church ordered the traditional Easter lilies for the altar and the donations paid for a colorful altar arrangement
of mums, early spring flowering plants, and azaleas. Cards were placed in the plants, to designate the gifts as
memorials, in thanksgiving for special events, or in honor of individuals. At the Easter Vigil Services, and during
the Easter Masses, the church was filled with flowers. At the end of the Easter Masses, the donors were allowed
to take their plants home to decorate their homes and gardens.
On Mother’s Day 1992, the church participated in a sale of roses. The proceeds from the Mother’s Day Rose Sale
were given to the Wisconsin Right to Life in support of human life.
The spring activities continued as Father Hughes held special services at Holy Cross Cemetery on Memorial Day.
Father Hughes also participated in the Evansville Memorial Day services at Maple Hill Cemetery.
On the feast day of St. Isidore, patron saint of the farmer, Father Bob, as many parishioners referred to him, held a
special service to bless the fields, gardens, and flowerbeds of parishioners.
Even though the membership in the Holy Name Society kept getting smaller and the meetings ceased, the men of
St. Paul continued to volunteer for church activities. In the spring of 1992, a new organization was formed.
An information and organization meeting for the Knights of Columbus was held on May 27, 1992 to determine if
there was interest in forming a Council. Men, age 18 and over were invited to the meeting. The recruitment of
members continued on the following Sundays, after each mass. State and regional Knights were on hand to
answer questions and share information.
Within a month, the Knights were formed and The Knights of Columbus Supreme Council 10920 charter was
issued on June 24, 1992. The names of the founding members were listed on the charter including Robert
Braucher, Leo Breunig, Gerald Buttchen, Aloysius Dahmen, Ronald DeKelver, Laurence Dobbs, Vincent
Drendel, Edward Eisele, Steven Evers, Henry Holz, Rev. Robert W. Hughes, Michael Hurley, Jeffrey Jensen,
James Jones, Steve Kimberly, Mel Lightner, Gerald Magee, Timothy Magee, Edward McCarten, Clarence Modaff,
James Modaff, Marc Nardini, Peter Pauley, Don Penniston, Joseph Polich, James Ripp, William Scholz, Stefan
Skotnicki, Paul Welton, Thomas Williams.
The Knights of Columbus received their 1st degree and officers were elected. The men assisted the pastor in
whatever was needed They also served as an honor guard for the Bishop when he visited St. Paul. For funerals
of their own members who had attained the 4th degree and for parish priests, the Knights also served as honor
One of the first acts of the new organization was a food drive for non-perishable food and paper products for the
Evansville food pantry. In coordination with the women’s organization, the drive continued, as needed during the
year to replenish to stock of food for local residents in need. In addition to the items collected, the Knights made a
monetary donation to the food pantry.
The Knights started fundraising immediately after organizing. The Knights sponsored card parties, January thru
March of each year. A $3 cover charge allowed participants to play Euchre and Sheepshead and have
In April the local Knights participated in the Wisconsin Tootsie Roll Drive. The men wore yellow aprons with
Tootsie Rolls in the pocket and held a can for donations. This was the most profitable fundraiser. The money was
distributed to schools and other programs for Special Education at the annual Columbus Day Dinner.
The men met monthly. On a Sunday in late spring the Knights participated in Corporate Communion at one of the
For the community 4th of July parade, the men built a float. The Knights rode on the float decorated with flowers,
donated by Al Dahmen and Steve Evers, owners of the Enchanted Valley Gardens. Knights Councils from
Janesville joined the local group in celebrating the community parade and the men tossed Tootsie Rolls and other
candy to people along the parade route.
The fund raising and volunteer work were a great benefit to St. Paul. The Knights provided the beverages at the
parish picnic; provided a $500 donation to a seminarian each year; did maintenance work for the church, including
landscaping, cleaning, and painting. They roofed the parish house and performed other duties as needed in the
A new Religious Education Coordinator was appointed in the fall of 1992. Carol Reilly assisted Father Bob in
organizing the classes.
The Religious Education program received a slide projector in memory of Jackie Wollinger Smolin. The children
held a Birthday Party for Jesus in December. The party was held at the Evansville Manor and the children sang
Christmas Carols with the residents and brought baby food as gifts to Baby Jesus. The food was donated to the
Evansville Food Pantry.
A new remodeling project was under consideration during the early spring of 1993. The cry room was to be
removed to make room for an elevator. In anticipation of the loss of the cry room, Sue Woulfe started a “Kids
Church” for the 10:30 mass. Children 1 to 5 years of age were invited to join religious education activities and
snack time. Sue Woulfe asked for donations of toys and volunteers to help with the program. The Kids Church
was officially underway in May 1993.
Father Hughes celebrated 25 years in the priesthood, near the end of his term at St. Paul. Father Hughes
decided, after five years of service at the parish, to become a Chaplain in the United States Navy.
The congregation held a reception for anniversary and farewell party. To wish him well in his new venture,
“Anchors Away! Go Navy! and Good Luck Huey,” decorated the final bulletin of Father Hughes time with St. Paul’s
Congregation. A Mass of Thanksgiving was held at 2 p.m. on May 23, 1993. A reception, dinner and dance,
followed at the Red Barn in Evansville. Norm Paulson and his band, “The Moonlighters” provided the music.
Father Hughes was praised for his ecumenical and community spirit. He was an active participant on the
community board of the Meals On Wheels program in Evansville. He also participated in the Evansville Clergy
FATHER EDWARD ERBE
Edward Erbe came to St. Paul Catholic Church in June 1993. He had served at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church
in Madison from 1969 to 1993 and was Director of Catholic Social Service Adoption Agency in Madison from 1961-
New members of the Parish Council elected in 1993 were Connie Dickert, Mike Hurley, and Audrey Braucher.
John Gernetzke was re-elected to another term on the council. Outgoing members were Greg Wallisch, Barb
Callahan and Phil Kress. The new Parish Council officers were John Gernetzke, president; Jan Benzinger,
secretary; and Connie Dickert, treasurer. Julie Hermanson, Joyce Koecher, Joe Amato and Norm Paulson
continued to serve terms on the 1993-94 Council..
Several new services started during Father Erbe’s service to St. Paul. Father Erbe started a series of study
sessions on the Church History and Scripture. The classes were held in the basement of the church, starting in
Those who could not leave their homes because of illness or disability were provided with a new service by the
parish. The church bulletins in the fall of 1993 announced that Eucharistic Ministers would bring communion to the
homebound. .After the new sound system was installed, a recording of the Sunday mass was also available.
Darlene Todd started a prayer group for those in need of special prayers.
A new high school youth group organized in 1993. The young people met for skiing, bowling, pizza parties and
other programs. The group also participated in food drives for the community Care Closet and did other
community service work.
A guitar choir was also organized with Mary Ann Gernetzke, Barb Cole, Kathy Avgoulas and David Heinzen. The
guitar choir sang for the 10:30 a. m. mass. In December 1993 the group held a Christmas Caroling program. The
members of the choir went to the residences of parish members and sang Carols, then returned to the church for
hot chocolate and cookies.
The tradition of a Good Deed Tree also started in December 1993 with the donation of a Christmas Tree by the
George Wollinger family, in memory of their daughter Jackie Wollinger Smolin. Suggestions for good deeds were
placed in a basket beneath the tree and those who did a good deed hung an ornament on the Christmas tree. By
Christmas, the tree was filled with Good Deed ornaments.
For several years during the 1990s, the Passion of Christ was re-enacted by St. Paul’s parishioners. The first
Passion performance took place on Palm Sunday, 1994. Tim Magee took the part of Jesus. Joyce Koecher was
the director. The cast included the Jeanette Jones as narrator, Jim Jones, Ed Kuhlow, Bob Poffenberger, Jeff
Jones, and Jason Jones, in other roles. In 1998, Sue Woulfe took on the role of director. Bob Braucher and Tim
May were added to the cast.
Under Father Erbe’s administration, a new sound system was installed. The system was purchased from G. & K.
Communications of Madison. After the new microphones, and amplifier were installed in the church, the old
amplifier was installed in the basement, so those attending Kids Church, could hear the Mass. The cost of the new
sound system was $14,000. Electrician Tim May and parish member Eugene Jakes installed the wiring for the new
equipment. Portable hearing aids were also available for those with hearing impairments who wanted to listen to
Because of the stairs at the entrance, access to the church was difficult for some of the congregation. The Church
Council studied the accessibility problems for several years and construction of an elevator was delayed due to
changing regulations for the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Wisconsin State Building Codes.
The original First Street entrance was reopened for access to the new elevator. The cry-room was eliminated to
make way for the entrance to the 3-stop elevator. From the entry level there was access to the sanctuary of the
church or to the basement hall for classes or social events.
The elevator was purchased from the Capitol Elevator Co. and the cost of the installation was anticipated to be
about $20,000. A St. Paul member, Tom Dolan, the owner of the Capitol Elevator Company and an elevator
installer, donated his labor and time for the project. Knights of Columbus members and other volunteers, who
were skilled carpenters, electricians and general laborers helped install the elevator and remodel the entrance.
There were also substantial financial contributions from parish members to help meet the cost of the improvement.
The Parish Council suggested that families give $100 toward the elevator and within a few weeks more than
$12,500 was donated, demonstrating the traditional generosity of St. Paul’s Congregation. The Council of Catholic
Women of St. Paul donated an additional $7,000 for the elevator installation.
A new handicapped parking area was created near the new entrance and a new sidewalk built for easy access to
the elevator. A wheelchair was placed in the elevator entrance.
The interior of the church was decorated with a large painting of the Last Supper. The painting was created by
Tim and Cathy Rooney and hung behind the altar. The three section piece was based on Leonard da Vinci's
portrait of Jesus and his disciples. The Rooney's painting was done in a Byzantine mosaic style.
The Rooneys spent eight months creating the oil on canvas painting. The background was diamond shapes
imitating the stained glass windows in the church.
The Byzantine style repeated the painting style of the Stations of the Cross on the walls of the church. Gold leaf
made the halos around the head of Christ and the Disciples, appear to shimmer.
The renovated church was re-dedicated on June 11, 1995. Auxiliary Bishop George Wirz was the celebrant at the
Mass. The elevator, sound system, new carpeting and the painting of the Last Supper by the Rooney’s were
blessed A donor plaque with the names of those who had contributed to the elevator project was engraved and
hung in the entrance.
The success of the elevator project was due in part to the hard work of the women of the church. A report of the
St. Paul Council of Catholic Women in the October 1995 church bulletin, told the story of their contribution. The
women earned money through bake sales and collecting funds from a grocery receipt program sponsored by the
local Piggly Wiggly Store.
In just one year, the women had donated to the elevator fund, purchased Bibles for the First Communicants,
wooden altar candle holders, and kitchen supplies. The CCW also made donations to the Evansville Food Pantry
and area fire victims. The group was praised for their efforts. “This sometimes quiet and unseen group
contributes to our parish in many ways.”
As the church celebrated its 90th anniversary, a new pictorial directory was completed in 1996. Church secretary
Helene Williams and Volunteer Anna Marie Huset were in charge of putting the directory together. The directory
included a brief history of the church, photographs of many of the parishioners, parish organizations and activities
and a roster of the parish members.
Father Erbe also celebrated a special anniversary in 1996. It was the 45th Anniversary of his ordination in the
priesthood. A special Mass was said on Sunday May 26, 1996, followed by a reception. The date was the exact
anniversary of his ordination on May 26, 1951.
An adult education class for religious instruction was started by Father Erbe in the fall of 1997. The class met in
the rectory every week, beginning in September. The following year, Father Erbe led a class on Spirituality.
The first Knights of Columbus Christmas Poster Contest was held in December 1997. The theme was “The True
Meaning of Christmas.” The first place winner was Desire LeMay.
Several of the Knights also assisted with renovation projects at the church. George Wollinger installed new gutters
and down spouts on the church and rectory. Tim May, Bob Braucher and John Otto installed new lighting in the
In 1998, the Knights also took responsibility for a section of Hwy. 59, south of Evansville and participated in
Roadside Clean-Up Days to keep the area free of garbage. The Knights also worked to clean the grounds of Holy
Cross Cemetery. The annual Tootsie Roll Drive in 1998 collected more than $6,000.
In May 1998, Father Erbe announced that an anonymous donor had given St. Paul’s Congregation a gift of funds,
with the stipulation that a 15-acre parcel of land be purchased. Although the congregation had no plans to build a
church, the land was available, should there be a need sometime in the future.
The 15 acres was located off the west end of Garfield Street in Union township and the land had been used for
farmland and was zoned agricultural. The donation was also contingent on the land being annexed into the City of
The land was in an area that was scheduled for residential development sometime in the future. In the meantime,
the land which was formerly owned by Larson farms was rented for crop land.
The church hired Attorney David Ross to represent the interests of the congregation in the negotiations with the
Town of Union and the City of Evansville, in order to meet the requirements of the anonymous donor. The
property was annexed into the city and Larson rented the land from the church to put in crops each spring.
The Knights of Columbus, in cooperation with Evansville’s new Aware Agency, sponsored an Easter Basket Drive
in 1999. The Knights asked for donations of food items and cash to fill Easter baskets with hams, fresh produce
and other necessities for an Easter dinner that was delivered to families in the community. In the first year, 38
families, including 94 children, benefited by the donations. The Knights also assisted with Evansville’s Easter Egg
Hunt, held on the Saturday before Palm Sunday.
Kay Lohr became the parish’s volunteer Meals on Wheels coordinator in 1999. She continued to serve through
New Parish Council members elected for three-year terms in May 1999 were Joe Bradley, Janice Turner, and Bill
Alt. John Otto and Jenean Hamilton finished their service on the Council. When the Parish Council elected
officers, Rich Modaff was named President; Nancy Hurley, Secretary and Roger Roth, Treasurer. Ed Kuhlow, Tim
Magee and Sue Woulfe also served on the Council in 1999.
In June 1999, Father Edward Erbe retired from St. Paul's. A reception was held on Sunday, June 27, to honor
Father Erbe for his work with the parish. He moved to St. Bernard’s rectory at Middleton to assist Msgr. Higgins.
FATHER PHILIP KROGMAN
St. Paul’s Congregation was assigned a new pastor, Father Philip Krogman. An Installation Ceremony was held on
Saturday, July 31, at the 5 p.m. Mass. Father Krogman explained the purpose of the installation: to indicate the
willingness of the parish to receive their new pastor; to show support for their Pastor by the Bishop; to underscore
the Bishop’s ministry extended through the Pastor; and to emphasis the communion of the priest with the Universal
At the annual parish picnic in September 1999, Father Krogman said the 10:30 Mass at the upper shelter at Lake
Leota Park. The picnic followed the service.
Mary Anne Alt was hired as the Church Secretary in the late summer of 2000, after Tom and Helene Williams
moved from Evansville. She was put in charge of the 2000 Church Directory.
FATHER ERIC NIELSEN
Father Krogman was reassigned in September 2000 to Our Lady of the Lake parish at Green Lake, Wisconsin. In
October 2000, Father Eric Nielsen was assigned to serve both St. Paul's and St. Augustine Catholic Church in
In 2001, he led a retreat to Holy Hill, near Hartford, Wisconsin. At the religious shrine, the group prayed the
Rosary in the lower church of St. Theresa. Then they climbed upstairs to the Upper Church where Father Eric said
the Mass for the Sick and Needy. From the upper church the group went to the Chapel of Our Lady Mary — Help
of Christians. After visiting the Chapel, the group walked the Stations of the Cross on the slope of the hill near the
Shrine. During Father Eric’s time at St. Paul’s, the pilgrimage to Holy Hill became an annual event.
Father Eric also led a group from the Parishes of St. Augustine and St. Paul’s to the Pro-Life March in Washington
D. C. in January 2002. The trip included high school students and adults.
In promoting the trip, Father Eric, said, “As Christians, we are committed to peacefully supporting the dignity of all
human life from conception to natural death. We trust that God will give us the ability to consistently defend life
without putting others down or attacking them for their beliefs. The message is actually quite simple. All human life
is created in the image and likeness of God and is deserving of respect.”
The group stayed at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and slept on a concrete floor in the crypt.
Those who went on the trip were Father Eric, Lynn Farberg, Erin Ellison, Kristin Stoner, Juliana Figueroa, Margaret
Callahan, Evan Baumberger, Jamie Jakes, Emily Amundson, Angela Olson, Elizabeth McCoy, Chris Gernetzke,
Chad Hermanson, and Brooks Baumberger.
“Keep Christ in Christmas” was the theme of the 2001 Knights of Columbus Christmas Poster Contest and the
local winner was Jonathan Rooney. Evansville’s winner also took first place in the Diocese of Madison contest.
When the poster was entered in the state contest, Jonathan took first place among the second graders entered in
In January 2002, Henry “Hap” Holz retired after more than 50 years as the parish caretaker. Hap and his wife,
Mary, had cleaned, shoveled snow, mowed the lawn and performed general maintenance to the parish grounds
and buildings. Hap and his family lived in the old Parish House on North First Street for many years.
Jim and Alice Rooney became the new caretakers in April 2002. The Rooney’s lived in the old rectory house on
North First Street. Before the new custodians moved in, the house was repaired and renovated by volunteers,
including members of the Knights of Columbus
New windows were installed, trim was added around the ceiling and new paneling was placed in the hallway. The
Rooney’s moved into the house in May 2002. They had a two-year contract with the parish and at the end of that
time, decided to return to Des Moines, Iowa.
For adults who were interested in learning more about the Catholic Faith a new program, The Rite of Christian
Initiation of Adults (RCIA) was started at St. Paul’s. Deb Magee was named RCIA Coordinator. Deb invited those
interested in learning more about the Catholic Church to join the meetings that were held at the church. The
program usually began in September to prepare participants for their First Communion the following Easter.
There were six adults in the 2002 RCIA class preparing for their First Communion and Confirmation. After several
months of study, the adults became full members of the congregation and received their First Communion and
Confirmation at the Holy Saturday Vigil Mass. Jennie Wendorf, Karen Kimberley, Julie Harnack, Kim Warren, Lynn
Gillitzer and Scott Schmiesing were new members in the RCIA class of 2002.
The 2002 First Communion class was the largest in many years. with more than 30 children receiving the
Sacrament. Anticipating a large crowd of parents, grandparents, friends and relatives, Father Eric divided the
class into two sections and held two Masses, to accommodate the crowds of people who wanted to celebrate with
The women’s group was in 2002 was headed by Julie Meredith as the president. The group met on the 4th
Tuesday of every month.
A long range planning committee was organized to decide the future needs of the church and the feasibility of a
new church, either on the existing site or on the 15 acres of land on the corner of West Garfield Street and
Campion Drive. No decision was reach on building and the land on West Garfield continued to be rented for
A new Community Care Closet was organized in an old grocery store on South Madison Street in 2002. Several
parishioners from the church became regular volunteers at the food and clothing distribution center and the
Knights of Columbus and Women’s group held regular food drives and contributed funds towards the operation of
the Care Closet.
A Christian summer camp for children in grades 2 thru 6 was organized for August 2002. A summer activity for
adults was a parish work day on August 22, 2002. Cleaning, painting, lawn care, and serving meals to the
workers, were some of the volunteer activities of the parishioners.
Twenty-three received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop George Wirz on April 3, 2002. The Fourth
Degree Knights of Columbus served as an honor guard for the Bishop at the Confirmation ceremonies.
The parish women and men, prepared Christmas Baskets and poinsettias to distribute to parish families. The
Knights and CCW were active in this program and some of the volunteers were Gaylen and Carol Reilly, Tim and
Deb Magee, George Wollinger and Tammy Albrecht.
A parish nurse was appointed in 2003. Karen Kimberley visited the sick and shut-ins of the parish and assisted
Father Eric with calls. Another innovation for the parish was the development of a website on the Internet. Mary
Anne Alt and Nancy Greve reorganized the Kids Church for the 10:30 Sunday Mass with religious education as the
focus of the activity.
Father Eric arranged for a member of the Knights, or a member of the CCW to lead the rosary every Tuesday
evening during the year. Father Eric Nielsen was transferred on June 11, 2003 to St. Mary’s parish in
Bloomington, Wisconsin. Father Nielsen encouraged members of the parish to continue to pray the Rosary during
the “Year of the Rosary” in 2003.
St. Paul had three “going away” parties for Father Eric, a golf outing, a potluck dinner, and donuts and coffee after
he said his last mass on Sunday, June 11.
Father Basil C. Osuigwe, a priest from Nigeria, was assigned as the administrator to St. Paul’s. He returned to
Nigeria in September 2003 to celebrate his 25th anniversary of ordination and did not return to Evansville.
FATHER DON HEIAR
On September 7, 2003, Father Don Heiar was assigned to St. Paul’s as the temporary administrator. A priest with
tremendous energy, Father Heiar was responsible for four parishes, St. Rose in Brodhead, St. Patrick in Albany,
St. Augustine in Footville and Evansville. On weekends he said 8 masses. Substitute priests were used in
Brodhead and Albany occasionally. Father Heiar assured St. Paul’s members that there would be no major
changes to parish life.
There was a reduction in the number of Masses said at St. Paul’s. For several years, there had been three
Masses, one on Saturday evening and two on Sunday. Because Father Heiar served four churches, the Mass
schedule at St. Paul’s was reduced to two masses, one on Saturday evening and one on Sunday morning. The
schedule of all four churches was printed in St. Paul’s bulletin.
During the Advent and Christmas Season, a special brochure was printed for the schedule of the Sacrament of
Reconciliation, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, Private Confessions, Feast Days of the Immaculate
Conception, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Feast of Mary, Mother of God. The schedules were liberally
distributed at all four churches during the Advent and Christmas season.
A redecorating project was underway in the early months of 2004. The wallpaper in the church was deteriorating
and the walls needed to be repaired and painted. The cost was expected to be around $5,700. Once again
donations came in to help pay for the project. The work began in January 2004. All of the pews were removed
from the church, with help of volunteers from the Knights of Columbus.
Starting with the March 7, 2004 bulletin, the events at St. Paul Church and St. Augustine Church were combined
into a single publication.
In March 2004, Marsha Dobbs announced her retirement as St. Paul’s Choir director. She served in that capacity
for 29 years. The choir directed by Marsha usually sang for the 5 o’clock Mass and following her retirement, the
music was provided by an organist and cantor.
The Knights of Columbus were busy throughout the year. They took responsibility for the annual community
Easter Egg Hunt at Lake Leota Park. In April 2004, the Knights organized the event and hid the eggs. Tim Magee
was the Easter Bunny, to the delight of the children.
In May 2004, the Knights gave a $500 scholarship to a graduating senior. In June, the Knights participated in the
Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society fund drive. Volunteers walked throughout the event to earned funds.
In early June 2004, Father Donn announced that he would be leaving the four parishes to serve St. John Vianney
in Janesville. A farewell party was held at St. Paul’s on June 27 to wish him God’s Blessings and success in his
FATHER KEVIN DOOLEY
On July 3, 2004, St. Paul’s Congregation welcomed Father Kevin Dooley. Father Kevin had been at St. Barnabas
Parish in Mazomanie and St. John the Baptist Parish in Mill Creek.
In addition to St. Paul, he was also the priest for St. Augustine in Footville. Father Kevin chose to live in the
Evansville rectory at 35 Garfield. The church office was in the rectory, but since the old rectory was vacant, the
church offices for the secretary and other staff were relocated to 44 North First.
The arrival of Father Dooley, coincided with the announcement of the new Pastoral Council. Time Magee was the
Council Secretary. Jim, Ripp, Deb Roemer, and George Wollinger III were new Pastoral Council members. Wally
Baumberger, Dick Schwartz, Janice Turner, Joe Bradley, Darrell Hamilton and Gaylen Reilly continued on the
Activities for the parish included a Bible Camp for kids in grades 1-6 was organized in the summer of 2004. Barb
Schmiesing, Clare Whitten and Chris Armshaw served as the coordinators.
The CCW through fund raising activities provided Bibles for the First Communion Children, vestments for the
priest, a vacuum and kitchen supplies for the church, poinsettia plants for homebound parishioners at Christmas
time. The CCW also hosted a St. Paul Feast Day Dinner, donut Sundays and ice cream socials after Mass. In the
continuing tradition of discussion clubs, the CCW purchased several copies of the book Courageous Love for a
Faith Sharing group. They offered a $500 scholarship to a graduating senior woman and a member of St. Paul.
The annual Christmas Pageant held on Christmas Eve 2004 had a special choir and musicians. Sheila and
Nathan Watson accompanied the choir members, Anna Bisch, Mary Bisch, Tricia Bisch, Katie Foley, Donna Foley,
Shaun Hamilton, Sydney Liautaud, Emily McCoy, Emily Schlangen, Heide Sendelbach, Tim Shea, and Ashley
Thompson. Flutists, Kathryn Hamilton and Erin Ellison played special music and accompanied the choir.
In 2005, the Knights of Columbus erected a Memorial to the Unborn at Holy Cross Cemetery. The image of Mother
and Child on the Memorial was drawn by Tim Rooney. The Confirmation Class of 2005 helped raise funds for the
CCW Officers for 2005 were Kate Hutchins, President; and Mary Ann Gernetzke, Fellowship/Hospitality. New
officers in the Centennial Year were Jenn Streber, President; Amy Schlangen, Vice President; and Nancy Hurley,
Outreach Co-Chair and coordinator of the Meals on Wheels volunteers in 2005
The parish office was moved to the basement of the church in December 2005.
St. Paul parish began the centennial year with a St. Paul Feast Day celebration at the Evansville Country Club on
January 14, 2006. A 100-year pictorial directory was published, including portraits of parish members and
photographs of church activities.
Volunteers continue to respond to calls for religious education teachers, choir members and accompanists,
behind the scenes workers wash and iron the altar linens, clean and repair the church buildings, and landscape
the church property. The parish members participate in the Council of Catholic Women, Knights of Columbus,
serve as Lectors, Cantors, servers, ushers, song leaders, Eucharistic or Extra-ordinary Ministers, church
decorators and other volunteers.
Today's church building is different from the one the 1906 congregation erected. The church has been enlarged
several times. The sanctuary is simpler in design and decoration. Services are said in English, rather than Latin
and there are more members of the congregation participating in the liturgy of the Mass.
There are descendents of the first families at St. Paul. Finnane, Dunphy, Kennedy, Farrell, Collins, McDermott,
and Montgomery families are still active 100 years after the church’s organization. The Irish picnics have been
replaced with an annual parish picnic. The card games have changed, yet the card party is still a popular fund
raiser for St. Paul. Men and women of the parish hold fund raisers throughout the year to help with church
The history of St. Paul is still in the making. In 2006, one hundred years after its organization, St. Paul’s
Congregation is a vibrant and active Church. The parish continues to offer the Sacraments, prayers, and activities
for more than 390 families, the members of St. Paul church in Evansville. For one hundred years, St Paul has kept
a strong tradition of FAITH, SERVICE, SACRIFICE, AND COMMUNITY. A new generation of St. Paul volunteers is
Ellen & Daniel Francis Finnane
Father James Condon was born at
Hustisford, Wisconsin on April 27,
1866. He graduated from the
Hustisford schools and went to St.
Francis Seminary in Milwaukee where
he was ordained on June 21, 1891.
He had served St. Patrick’s Church in
Janesville until 1894. He also served
at St. James at Templeton; St. Patrick’
s Hollandale; and was Chaplin of
Edgewood College in Madison.
Father Condon was placed in charge
of organizing St. Paul’s in addition to
his work at Edgewood. He received
a salary of $25 a month.